Seeing in the New Year
“Whose woods these are I think I know” They’re ours of course, whenever we go.
Walking in the sere winter woods, the lush green of summer feels like a faded distant dream. Curly brown leaves lay where they fell in a protective mantle across the frozen land, rustled by a stiff northern wind. Their mosaic of muted colors displays every shade of tan, from bright light papery beech leaves to the thick shiny bronze oaks. On exposed hillsides unseasonal downpours have carved a twisted course through their deep layers, revealing the curving contours of the landscape
Bright autumn hues of red and gold
Have faded to dull brown,
But soon an ermine mantle,
Will cover all the ground …
November, Ardenelle M. Mason
In the eddies of brooks, the withered forms of plant stalks stand stiffly holding their shattered seed heads. The arched stems of sweet woodreed dangle over the water like the graceful arms of dancing ballerinas, while punky cat-tail heads explode in slow motion, casting a million tiny parachuted seeds to the wind. Scattered through the marsh, dark green tubular tules spear the air in singular spikes, refusing to bow to the freezing cold.
And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.
The Brook, Alfred Lord Tennyson
The bright songbirds of summer that roused us with their dawn chorus, have flown south to warmer climes. In their place a sparrow slips silently through the leaves, eating buds and hidden bugs, it’s mottled tan feathers a perfect foil for flitting unseen. High above among the dense hemlock branches, white-throated nuthatches chatter cheerily, tap tap tapping the giant tree trunks for grubs.
We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
In the dark of December, Oliver Herford
All else is stillness, the deep quiet of waiting out the long winter, for which there is no recourse. The slowness of the season seeps into our thoughts, bringing an inner tranquility of being. We have time to reflect on ourselves and the course of our lives, to reset our goals and paths, to renew our commitments. We return to the woods retracing our steps in its cycles of death and rebirth, finding comfort in the regularity of nature’s rhythms.
The Journey, Mary Oliver