Gray Day – Still Night
Mid-winter gloom, everywhere brown and gray
Long nights and short days, repeating, afterimages of each other
Trees dead to life, set against a gray sky
No clouds, or all clouds, a gray blanket covering the earth.
Birds, dots against the sky, silently sailing, waiting
Gripping tight their feathers, sailing through the bleak ether
Looking, silently, looking afar, dots against a gray sky
Finally, settling in some windless wedge within the arms of trees.
Wind moves among the bows, trees brown and silent, standing and waiting
Waving branches, like arms of some unseen race raised skyward
Waving on the wind, set against a gray sky
Brown arms, of brown bodies, waiting, anticipating what is to come.
Winter has always been a time of renewal for me, renewal in a sense that the chill bleak skies and silent nights are a time of waiting and anticipating those seasons of life and light that separate each winter season. During that wintry time I have always found it easier to think about the past and the future. I guess it is because there is little that draws my attention in terms of life and beauty outside and the inside never changes so ones thoughts often turn inward, into those memories that have impressed some event or sight into the minds eye and left a mark that wells up when other things are not present. Sometimes I look at the outlines of the trees against a nondescript sky and as I watch they begin to draw out memories from the recesses of my subconscious.
Winter is a time of contemplation when it is, or at least it seems to me, easier to locate oneself within the ebb and flow of activities and events that surround one. At these contemplative moments I have pondered the path that has brought me to this time and place and those crossroads that marked the way. I have always tried to consider both the now and the soon-to-be when I made decisions and, as much as possible, resisted making a decision or taking a path based on simple desire or immediate need. I guess this stems from the passage I found once that seemed to sum up the whole process of living and decision making, “I shall pass this way but once, any good therefore that I can do or help that I can offer, let me do it now, for I will not pass this way again.” I put the words in quotes but can not vouch for their one hundred percent accuracy, although I do believe that my memory has found the mark. Its important as you live each moment of each day that you live beyond yourself and think beyond your own needs and desires. There is so much that a single word or simple action can do to change the history of the moment that it is almost unthinkable to trivialize this process. I am sure that most of my friends and acquaintances would take issue with the degree to which I place importance on this but I am sure I am correct. The reason I can say this with such certainty is based on a few instances, from my time as a teacher, when I have found out that a single action, simple decision or word or two have made a life-changing difference for someone. That’s a lot of power to place on ones actions and words, but I am sure that for everyone, for everything that everyone does and says this is true. Life is the result of the decisions, words and actions of every individual to every other individual.
At times like these winter contemplations it bothers me that so many of the people that I know or see, whether familiar or stranger, seem to take there words and actions so lightly – spewing forth verbiage that can damage a life forever or make a decision that is taken so lightly that the consequences are something that seem not to enter into the process. One of the things that helps me here is that I have seen both my son and daughter wrestle with words and decisions in such a way that I believe, either consciously or unconsciously, they understand the power of words and actions that I have here previously discussed. My wife, on the other hand, seems so often to give little thought to the things she says to others and in the way she acts, or better reacts, to events and people. This contrast is for me a demonstration of the two worlds within which individuals operate. For those that seem to say and act without the level of thought that I have discussed here do so, for the most part, in innocence. That is they act, say and decide based on only there feelings and desires – which is to say they do so without malice. For those individuals, who I believe compose today and have composed in the past the majority of peoples of any time, I feel sorry because they are, or at least seem to be, missing the deeper nature of living and relationships. And, there are a few for whom the decision, action or verbiage is calculated to injure and mam. These are those persons for whom the outcry for justice has always been made and for whom the receipt of a thoughtless act or phrase becomes the emptiness for anger and retaliation.
Winters contemplations are also a time to assess the recent past in light of present circumstances. It is during these times that one can most clearly see the path ahead as it has not yet began to dim with distance. One of my favorite positions to view the world at a time like this is from the recliner in my radio room. As I tilt back and find a comfortable spot my gaze is always eastward out of the wall to wall window just above the radio table and through the tree tops onto the sky beyond. Over the years the tree matrix has become a vehicle for thought and decision making. The intertwining twisting branches that compose the naked canopy dark against the figureless grey sky beyond opens infinite channels for thought and decision making. Each channel follows some combination of limb and bow and branch as it traverses my view opening a new pathway of thought. The occasional bird or squirrel punctuates this thought pathway just as a new idea or heretofore un realized insight punctuates the decision making process or train of thought – offering an alternate view or idea from which one can grow a new answer.