Snow swirls in the winter wind,
illuminated by the lights of a house in the early twilight of
December dusk. Leafless trees appear as intricate black carvings
against the deepening hue of blue above them. The season may seem
and hostile. With a closer look, one may hear for the first time
the subtle sound of snowflake landing upon snowflake, and the
sound of thousands forming artfully shaped drifts unlike any museum's
masterpiece. For the resting plants it will eventually be breakfast.
For the humans it has cancelled worldly commitments, allowing
each person a rare opportunity to rediscover all that really matters.
Gone are the clear days of summer's
play, of autumn's harvest, and all in nature rests. The calm is
deceptive; this is a time of transition. From the horizon approach
the clouds of its first storm. Fear of the coming wind, rain,
and colder nights can make us overlook the subtle beauty of a
bleak season: The leafless trees revealing the sky above, and
the sky's breathtaking art made possible by the presence of clouds.
Though a season of withering
and fading, autumn is a celebration. Even the death-centered Halloween
is a marking of the harvest, of abundance. Jack-o-lanterns are
large fruits whose edible portions have gone into delicious pies.
Dried-up cornstalks represent grains that are now stored away
for the big meals of the holiday season. Like a television test
pattern at the end of a broadcast day, fall colors signal a time
to rest from hard work and sunburns. Autumn is the greatest proof
that death's mission is one of complete futility and frustration:
All seasons of withering and fading somehow turn into great celebration
17 , 2007
Late August in New Hampshire always brings a change in the weather
that can seem cruel and harsh: The cooling of swimming holes,
the shortening of daylight, the first necessity of a heat source
for the evening, each a reminder that frost is not far away. Not
allowing any distraction by the pointless counting of days, the
flowers show their midsummer's bloom until autumn actually finds
8 , 2007
The flapping of wildbird wings
is the only sound aside from the occasional thunder from miles
away. The strange irony is that the storm is frighteningly loud
where it's striking, yet peacefully rumbling for those who've
already felt its wrath. The sun chooses not to illuminate the
rain-soaked land again before nightfall, but instead does something
better: To aim at the icy heights and display a new aspect of
the now-distant thunderhead. Fearsome, we already knew. But after
getting mercy we now see its full beauty.
8 , 2007
It got to the point where no
one thought the cold times would end. Halfway through April, as
the greatest of all the winter's storms was only beginning, a
loon sat near the edge of the ice pack in a small patch of open
water on the otherwise-frozen lake. While the storm wind's voice
got louder and threatened to rule, the loon offered its telltale
song of milder times to come. Such a promise seemed unbelievable,
or even impossible. Seven days later, 80-degree weather melted
the lake ice. Less than three weeks after the blast of bitter
wind, there was the blast of the summer ship's horn: The promises
in the loon song had come true.
7 , 2007
They wished as they do every
year at Christmas, for snow. When December brought weather more
typical of Easter, they put aside their traditions of snowman-building
and sleigh-riding, celebrated together as best they could, and
gave up wishing. Unknown to them, their seemingly hopeless wishes
had been heard. Things were not happening according to their own
schedules, but the coming Easter was bringing a reminder of the
universal truth that things always equal out in the end. Always.
14 , 2007
Your spirit soars. The bitterness
of winter's extreme chill seemed like it would never end. Then,
after one last cold morning--the coldest of them all--everything
changed. You find yourself held up by wings, blinded by the complete
snowcover of a frozen lake surrounded by majestic mountains. In
the distance reigns the highest of them all, free of clouds for
the first time in days. It, too, appears small compared to the
vastness of everything else. Your newfound freedom gives you altitude,
a more correct perspective of yourself, the world, and all that
you once thought impossible.
7 , 2007
The morning greets you with cold
floors and a wood stove whose fire went out while you slept. Opening
your eyes is a blindingly pure-white blanket of snow from the
storm that cleared before dawn. The sub-zero cold makes it hard
to decide which comes first: A hot shower, or a new fire? From
the swirl of blowing snow outside appears a chickadee. The thought
of something so small trying to survive such temperatures boggles
your mind. Before doing anything else, you put some seed out for
the tiny bird. Your shivering stops momentarily as you witness
the warmth you've given.
It is January, yet there is no
ice on the lake. Instead, the springlike fog forms as unusually
warm air raises the water temperature at a time of year when it
should be cooling off. Whenever things are so seemingly out of
order, everyone claims a different theory for its cause as if
it were fact. Though some may be right, we are still just children
in the fog. Beavers know when to work, bears know when to sleep,
and eagles have never needed radar, but are we not the same species
who once proclaimed the earth flat and the Titanic unsinkable?
4 , 2006
The local pop radio station now
plays a continuous stream of Christmas music. One musical star
sings "Silent Night" while the sun draws nearer the
western horizon. The busy summer season has finally culminated
in one final thunderstormy battle on the last night of November
and is now over. In its wake the land rests and eagerly awaits
its whitening. In timely fashion the singer on the radio sings
about "Radiant beams" while golden solar rays become
plainly visible in plumes of snow. Heaven and nature sing.
23 , 2006
Summer's frantic nature yeilds
to something refreshingly different. Once-busy waters now lie
flat against a sky that has already produced its first few snowflakes.
Nearby mountains await their annual blankets of it. The trees,
like the creatures who live among them, prepare for hibernation.
Like a television station announcing the end of its broadcast
day, nature now draws inward for regularly scheduled rest and
reflection. It beckons us to do the same.
25 , 2006
Colors, colors everywhere. It's
no wonder there's such a battle. The heat tries to hold on. Autumn
strikes with the inevitable. Between them, lightning and thunder
are cannon fire in the mountains. Then the sun separates its colors
in an arc over the world, while shining its light on the leaves
showing color of their own. The color season is only preparation
for the season of contrast.
31 , 2006
Soft mountain breezes blow the
last puffs of summer over thriving wildflowers. Take a good look;
all of this is quickly passing away. Nights just a couple notches
above freezing are becoming more commonplace. Soon will come a
final, incredible display of color - nature's own test pattern
- before it all turns a blindingly pure white.
12 , 2006
The first of many battles between
haze and clarity has taken place with clarity proving victorious.
Though the haze will return to stifle us with more hot air, we
can take comfort in knowing it won't last long. People see the
sky and ask if the season has already changed, but it hasn't just
yet. In its own time, clarity will reign, giving everyone a good
rest when the land shows its colors. But in the Dog Days of August,
autumn only appears long enough to remind us to be patient.
12 , 2006
Thunder fades into the distance.
Raindrops patter from the leaves of trees. In the misty air, your
ears still ring from the storm, even as calmness takes over. The
inclement weather has not stolen the warmth away, and crickets
chirp just as fast as they did before. The full moon rises to
invoke the loons into song once again. Only this kind of peace
is worthy to follow the storm's dramatic act. But only the most
dramatic storm can introduce peace in such a way that we enjoy
it as much as it deserves to be enjoyed.
13 , 2006
For weeks it seemed like the
rain would never stop. Many felt eternally separated from the
sun's light. But the powerful energy source was not about to make
a grand appearance. It didn't need a ceremony. Instead, the sun
would humbly sneak its first rays to earth via midnight's full
moon, from behind the breaking clouds. Sleeping within the walls
that had sheltered them from the rising floodwaters, the city's
people would not notice until they awoke to find the light already
shining. The light was a step ahead of them as always.
5 , 2006
Why do people dream of soaring
with the eagle? What makes a child dream of becoming a pilot?
A desire to join the heavens has been engraved on the heart of
man for centuries. It has cost the lives of some who tried early
flying machines, and driven the Wright brothers to give up their
jobs as bicycle mechanics to build the first airplane. One can
never understand why until passing through a room with a floor
of puffy clouds, a ceiling of infinite blue, and no walls. Such
a sight can make us suddenly aware that the wings are not our
own, that our finite souls can only soar with help from the eagle.
30 , 2006
The wetland peepers start their
annual springtime chorus. The season's first soft warm breezes
make a rhythm in the budding new leaves. The shrinking lake ice
pack clatters and pings like cymbals that celebrate the light.
Budding leaves and open water lure back the birds, whose vocal
performances now welcome each dawn. Music seems a universal celebration
of life and light. After all, when a winter illness leaves us,
the first thing we seem to celebrate is the return of voice.
5 , 2006
The sun is stronger and more
blinding than in months past. Could it be that the season of darkness
is nearing its end? The mountain's shadow is no longer significant.
Even as winter's chill stubbornly remains, solar rays melt ice
into flowing, living water. Soon it will feed the re-emergence
of life. The dogs, no longer needed as extra blankets for your
bed, lead you toward the door. There's a sled waiting, and adventures
beyond. The ice has lost its grip on us, and its days are numbered.
You are about to respond with a display of boundless energy across
the fields of brilliant light.
Evergreens at the mountaintop
spend the night gathering snowflakes. In the darkness and the
bitter wind, the ice builds on their branches. It's a desolate
place, visited by none, until it becomes hospitable. Fair weather
brings new admirers to see the frosted trees stand out from the
monotony of earth-colored surroundings. By themselves, the trees
would not be photogenic, but their experience in the storm lets
them reflect the infinitely attractive light of the sun.
We seem to love photographs of
trains plowing their way through snow. We may romanticize a train
in a snowstorm, while the scene of cars on a snowbound highway
brings less-favorable thoughts. Cars are an extension of self:
Our desires, personalities, and weaknesses. On the train, desires
and personalities mingle, and weaknesses meet strength for something
faster, ground-shaking, that is not concerned about a little snow
on the rails. Signals at crossings warn cars to stay back: The
train will not yield. We are naturally fascinated with such greater
things. Upon hearing, "all aboard!" we are drawn, yet
repelled at the same time. We want to make an ally of the greater,
more powerful thing. But first, we must willingly turn from self.
The holiday season can swirl
around us like snow from a blizzard: Constant reminders of what
it should be, what it could be, what it would be if only... As
thoughts, commitments and unmet wishes make us think the light
is nonexistent, remember the mountain. While darkness lingers,
the mountain is bathed in blinding brilliance. To all who can
only see the storm, this place is unseen but nonetheless real.
It just rises above the clouds.
What makes a summer sun-worshipper
wish for snow on only one day of the year? Perhaps such wishes
are greater than we know. A child sees in snow a potential snowman
or fortress, not airport delays. Christmas, for many, brings back
those former ways, when innocence attracted happiness. Could it
be that by chasing the happiness in hopes of getting more, we've
embraced its opponent instead? We turn our backs to the Whitening,
and shun nature's ways of telling us to slow down for the long
winter's nap. The year's final days beckon us to give enough of
ourselves away that we smile and shout, "let it snow!"
dark room – mostly
Logfire tap-dances, at one side
Light and shadow waltz, the opposite wall
A grandfather clock, pendulum swings
In warmth, beside blazing oak
Outside, through autumn’s night
First snow falls.
© 2002 Mike Colclough and Poetry.com
Although the days shorten, things can be clearer at night. Sit
in an airplane cockpit facing the afterglow of sundown, your hand
on the throttle, but your allegiance to the Tower, and let the
runway lights lead your soul closer to Infinity. Confusion fades
like the city's lamps far below, and your surroundings are illuminated
in such a way that only the important details stand out. Nowhere
are they more obvious than where the light of man's doing is not
present: There the starlight compass remains.
Driving in the fog at night makes one glad to be in the company
of others. Headlights reach out like two-pronged forks stabbing
at the darkness. Taillights follow one another in single file,
fading as they go, each driver more courteous to the others than
when navigating in clarity, when he or she might rather own the
road. It is the darkness and fog that make us so glad not to be
alone. The challenge is to be sure that the ones we follow are
leading us well, and to be aware that others do follow us so we
can lead them well. This life at best is like fog at night, and
only the rising sun can burn it away.
Autumn's evening air has a certain smell to it, an energy not
found in any other season. The same temperature can happen many
a time, but only autumn mixes it with wood smoke in such a way
that it awakens you and yet makes you sleepy at the same time.
The feeling makes you seek out the blankets in life. Early twilight
makes you excited about golden light pouring from the windows
of home, and the cold evening makes you eager for fresh hot pie.
Such an abundance is incomplete without welcoming guests who need
it more and a Host who has more. Strange, it seems: Nothing makes
us celebrate in warmth and light quite like chilled darkness.
Our fire's smoke is a drifting, open invitation.
Red and black are warning flags that fly before the storm
The great chaotic vortex draws life from oceans warm
With every storm is danger, raging winds and flood
And danger has a color: It's the same as blood
Danger sometimes kills those who don't put up a fight
Death has a color too: The absence of all light
The Lighthouse flashes white, a beam that does not bend
Like the rainbow it's a promise that soon the storm will end.
"Hurricane Warning" © 1992
For the first time in weeks, it feels nice to crawl under blankets
when the sun goes down. August's last days are noticeably longer
than its first, but the change brings the promise of a good night's
sleep with open windows, soft late-summer breezes and a chorus
of crickets. Dark clouds on the horizon may be precursors to autumn's
endings in nature, but beginnings elsewhere: academic goals, football,
hockey, baseball's World Series, and jumping in piles of leaves.
The fields ripen while mild afternoons make it easy to bring in
the harvest, and the cool twilight air of summer's finale is an
invigorating celebration of every season having its own time for
all to enjoy.
As quickly as it came, the storm departs. The sound of its thunder
fades with each minute. It has left behind several calling cards:
the dripping of water from the trees, a few branches scattered
around the landscape, and the ringing in your ears from when it
was directly overhead. Breaking clouds allow the day's last few
minutes of sunlight to traverse the horizon. In the same place
where a lightning bolt burned its image into your sight just a
few minutes earlier, a rainbow springs to life. This transition
is nature's most profound commentary.
After a sultry day in which the air seems to get more stifling
with each passing minute, the sun goes in, the air becomes unnervingly
motionless, and your mind detects the rumbles of a battle on the
western horizon. The storm, however, brings a promise of clear
air to follow. Lightning is constantly pulsing from all points
of the living planet. It blasts to charred splinters a centuries-old
oak tree, knocks boulders into jagged shards of granite, then
dances silently on the horizon before the fog falls like a curtain.
It is the ultimate evening show, the force of creation, and the
force of destruction, having the first word, and the last.
We are fascinated with things greater and more perfect than ourselves.
Children often read fairy tales of noble knights and beautiful
ladies whose castle is strong enough to hold back the greatest
attackers. As adults facing daily attacks we still crave something
great enough to revive our senses of wonder. We need only pause,
close our eyes, and revisit that place where the walls are always
strong, where we too can be knights and ladies, and the good king
lives on forever.
April 22, 2005
Led by the ever-brightening light, great numbers of individuals
break the confines of the barren season and head home to the high
country. Melting snows add to the swiftness of rivers, tiny green
sprouts burst into bloom almost overnight, ponds newly freed of
ice emit a chorus of frogs, and animals of all types are on the
move. A long awaited energy is in abundance for all.
March 31, 2005
After the reign of cold and windswept desolation, the clouds break,
not a moment too late for dawn. The first sign of things to come
is the migration of animal herds back to higher ground. Swans,
geese, and eagles arrive back at their creek to find the ice departing
and fish available for a meal. Creatures of song mingle their
voices into one celebration of the light gathering on the mountain.
The grand scheme of things is doing something new.
February 28, 2005
The "March Lion" roars, as winds pick up from the east,
and the approaching clouds thicken and lower. There's a certain
energy in the air ahead of a storm, as the pace of nature itself
seems to feature a sort of urgency. The same force that tells
seagulls to fly inland and squirrels to seek out their stores
of acorns speaks also to people. We look at the gray sky and dimming
sun, and feel the need to buy food, or bring in more firewood
than normal. The promise, however, is that storms are the exception,
or they would never command our attention. Each in its own time
February 19, 2005
The time between sunrises and sunsets gets noticeably longer with
each passing day. After many long, cold days in which the minutes
of light were the minority, the sun rises higher in the sky. Its
rays melt back some of the snowpack, watering the seeds of new
life on earth. More icy days are inevitable, but the new season
has already announced its promise.
February 5, 2005
All the previous day's heat has risen to the mountaintops overnight.
The cold air taking its place in the valleys and over the lakes
comes with a ground fog that freezes in a fine layer of frost
to everything it touches. The distant sound of a fisherman's ice
auger breaks the silence of dawn. The light makes the fog shine
in many colors before removing it to reveal the day. The frost
melts quickly. It is time to reel in a catch.
February 1, 2005
It is one below zero, warmer than the past few mornings when the
lake ice had spent the entire night expanding as it cooled, at
times so forcefully that it rattled the windows of cabins along
the shoreline. In the light, the day's first shadows show the
tracks of those who've ventured across. Perhaps a few of them
took a moment to stand in fascination of the fact that the very
thing that gives us life comes in three forms - solid, liquid,
and gas - and in all forms is capable of trembling the rock on
which we live.
January 20, 2005
Hours of darkness and swirling snow end suddenly. Your eyes open
to fences in the cold morning. The wind gives flight to each crystal
from the newly whitened land, and no man-made barrier can stop
them. The sun may be low in the sky for a while longer, but the
soft blanket of powdery snow reflects its light, surrounding you,
beckoning you outside in a state of bliss. After all, spring is
not far off.
January 15, 2005
Light mixes with shadow at the break of day. The air's chilly
calmness speaks of simplicity. In fascination you stare, for several
moments forgetting that your mittens are still inside. With a
camera you pursue the fleeting moment. The camera, however, can
only record the physical. The rest cannot be confined.
January 7, 2005
Waking up to find snow can sometimes bring back childhood memories
of Bambi's woodland friends in awe of it, filled with wonder,
and of completely relating to those characters while playing outside
in fresh snow. What is it that makes so many adults see it differently
than they did as children? Is it more deeply rooted than a simple
opinion on a type of weather? Perhaps Robert Frost wondered this
also, when he wrote that he'd nearly forgotten boyhood joys of
swinging on birch trees. But, he said, all is not lost: It is
never too late to return.
January 5, 2005
A cool misty morning reveals the early season lake ice breaking
apart as though it were spring. Where is winter? Where is the
snow the weatherman said would fall overnight? The branches of
trees have long since shed their leaves in anticipation of carrying
snow's weight, but hold glistening remnants of rain instead. There
is a perfect reason behind everything in the natural world. If
only we were big enough to question its source and understand
December 30, 2004
One of winter's most outstanding performances is that of moonlight
on snow-covered ground. More grand than the "oil on canvas"
one will find at the Museum of Fine Arts, this peace-inducing
natural phenomena is accentuated by the presence of stars over
a frozen lake. The light of a house on the shoreline offers a
sense of warmth and solitude. The ice pack gurgles and booms as
it cools and expands in the nighttime air.
December 10, 2004
The midwinter only seems bleak, until you stand beside a calm
lake that's about ready to freeze. As clouds lower and thicken,
promising snow after dark, the water lies so still that it makes
you toss a pebble in to see if there's ice yet. The ripples it
makes are the only movement in the entire scene. After the splash,
your breath is once again the only sound. You hold it, which is
when you notice a very slight ringing in your ears from some more
busy moment in your life -- perhaps earlier that same day -- but
now it seems like long ago.
December 8, 2004
The winter wind is filled with clean air, cold yet rejuvenating.
If you're wearing windproof outerwear, the breeze hits only your
face, acting as an ever-present cup of coffee from the sky. When
autumn's leaves have all browned on the forest floor, and the
once-green canopy of summer has become a leafless gray, it is
inspiring to wake up in the morning and find the entire scene
has become a crystalline white while you slept.
© 2005 Mike Colclough, all rights reserved