30 January 2008

A day to match the mood

There are days to match our moods, aren’t there? A rainy, mid-winter Tuesday slowly wasted at my desk doing little tasks while bigger, more significant, immediately pending things wait for me.

Too little sleep over the past few nights doesn’t help. There’ve been at least four nights now laying awake with images of conferences to plan, articles to write, league schedules to draft, science fair projects to shepherd, unpaid bills, the neighbor’s possible pot grow, Barack v. the Clintons, all of it bouncing around my head at 3am for several nights in a row like agitated electrons under the glare of a microscope with no pattern at all played to a musical score that consists solely of the repeating chorus to the Bee Gees “My World”. (My world is our world and this world is your world and your world is my world and my world is your world is mine.)

Noon passes. The remains of last night’s leftovers sit on my desk. Outside the rain is finally letting up though the clouds refuse to open and allow in the blue and gold of sky and sun. It’s time for a walk. All of the rest of this shit can wait.

Ten minutes finds me in the snow-strewn parking lot of Lady Bird Johnson Grove. A solitary snowman adorned with the tight-needled branches from the highest points of the redwoods greets me. He’s been here a couple of days. His once smoothed, rounded paunch is dimpled by the just-a-bit-too-warm-for-him temperature. The white skirt around his ankles oozes slowly into the blacktop. His eyes are sunken and his bushy green moustache droops, the gaunt look of a tired old man who knows he’s already seen his best days.

A sense of heaviness pervades as I slosh up the path. Wet mounds of melting snow gather on the edges of the trail. The surrounding cold gray fog blankets the forest, veiling the tops of the trees.

Large branches have fallen here in the week’s heavy storms, more from the crushing weight of wet snow than the wind I’d guess. Several new widowmakers have impaled themselves solidly beside the trail. A hemlock, nearly a foot in diameter, is snapped about ten feet above the forest floor and fallen to the ground, it’s pale heartwood splintered and pointing jaggedly upwards shaking its fist at the sky for denying it the opportunity to reach the canopy with its brethren.

It’s not raining right now, but a secondary rain falls. Rain drops collected in the highest branches cascade down, falling only short distances at first, from branch to branch, needle tip to needle tip until there are no more branches to slow their fall and they pour from a million needles in a thousand trees to be absorbed in the ferns and saturated duff far below.

The ferns and huckleberries and rhododendrons bend under the weight of a week’s snow. They’re held low to the ground opening broad vistas through the lower forest that don’t exist in drier times.

The trail is half covered in half gray, half white snow, snow that is pockmarked with round water drops and depressed by muddy bootprints. The remaining snow is littered with fallen debris: thin redwood branches, some dead and brown, others recently alive and bright green, are strewn casually alongside dark green rhododendron and tanoak leaves.

In a tanoak cluster near the end of the trail, there’s a quick flash of pale yellow. A small warbler or vireo flits around in front of me. I stand still, watching her for a moment and she comes closer, curious, as if she wonders what I’m doing out in the cold, wet forest on a day like this. I wonder the same of her.

I try hard to not see this colorful, carefree little bird as a sappy, sugar-coated omen that spring is just around the corner and better days are just ahead. But I fail. The walk has done me some good after all. The pressures of life have been lifted, if only momentarily. And perhaps, as soon as I’ve finished this little piece of non-fiction, I’ll actually get back to something my boss considers worthwhile. Perhaps.

1 comment:

Jennifer Savage said...

Gorgeous post, Bob.