Second Breath

That evening, in the blue light of a shrouded winter twilight, I saw falling leaves suddenly begin spiraling upwards through the trees.

I rubbed my eyes, reassessed my mostly empty—second or third—glass of dry red wine, &, with the slight squint of my dreamy eyelids, made the walls of the glass disappear. I stared at it curiously, slowly licking my tingling bottom lip. The opaque liquid left behind seemed to sit like a pool of blood in my tender & innocent palm.

A strong gust of wind shook the warm cabin logs, which turned my amused state of attention back to the gravity-defying phenomenon bustling outside in the woodland air. As the leaves continued to mysteriously climb & dance, I could hear their brown, crinkled flesh whispering prayers of returning again to the impossible place of their youth. Together, like a fabled lament of the forest, they told the longing story of May, June, & July, swaying high up in the branches, wearing the color of vitality, drinking light & life so abundantly.

I watched them. Up & up they soared, desperately reaching, twirling & chattering like lost fairies of spring & summer.

But suddenly there was silence; the breathing sky inhaled & all that floated in the treetops began to fall once again. I scooted my body closer to the window, captivated by how magical the switch appeared. It seemed to me then that it was not gravity that had previously been bent, but time; it was as though time reversed & resumed with the push & pull of the mighty, reigning wind.

It is common for an individual to experience multiple moments in life when time seems to slow or stand still, but I am quite sure it takes a much rarer trick of perception to be convinced of time moving backward. It was indeed a first & thrilling sight for me in this instance—but I am also sure that wine is & was a significant factor in creating the proper conditions for such a time-reversing illusion to occur.

I took another hearty sip of my drink—this finished the glass—as my gaze followed the leaves rocking silently back down to the winter ground. Somehow I knew the wind had not really gone; it was only just recharging. As I waited for its return, my empty cup was, without request, refilled by the familiar hand of my beloved. I found him standing in front of me, in the soft orange light of the cabin, his face feeling flushed as he met mine for a gentle kiss.

I cannot recall the precise amount of time that passed after that moment, but, regardless, & as surely as I predicted, the tunnel of cold air did come again, roaring back through the shivering valley, scooping the paper leaves off the forest floor for another—perhaps the last—ritual attempt at regaining the lives they lost.

“Abandon your mourning to this second breath of life,” I whispered to them, &, like a toast to good health, clinked my full—third or fifth—glass against the window, “for we can never go back.”

 

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What Strange & Resilient Things

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Oh, all the strange & resilient things that don the old trees in the wet winter forest.

On the weathered faces of those sleeping giants, clever mushrooms appear like five o’clock shadow. Their roots, stretching out across the plush carpet of decay like callused & twisted toes, are graced with fuzzy green socks of thick moss, rich in color. And around every naked trunk, wrinkled & leathery like roughly aged necks, are fashioned snug scarves of ivy vines.

High up, the wizened branches may crack & creak, like ancient bones in cold discomfort, but down below, damp leaves, like blankets of freshly shed skin, silently compress into fresh fabrics for spring clothing.

 

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Seasonal Depression

There was little reason for that routine evening drive to be particularly memorable. All I can think is that it was already late December, so by this point in the year I fully expected to be settled into the cold, desaturated world of seasonal depression. Upon my return to Ohio from a week in sunny Texas, I prepared myself to see nothing but plains of white twisted with varying lines of black, every scene frozen under a vast shroud of gray.

But all the way down that seven mile stretch of road from the highway exit to my heart’s home, I was blessed by paintings of gentle colors flickering through my car windows. The decomposing earth produced a grayish-green sea about the scattered islands of rusty leaves. The wet tree skeletons donned an array of plum & mossy browns. Hazy purples were thickly present in the damp atmosphere. The low sun poured out a sheer veil of soft, mango light over the prevailing winter.

The joy I received from this seemed to rise up slowly from within myself, like warmth radiating out toward the beauty around me & spreading over my skin, like a tide reaching up from the ocean to kiss the lover shore.

But just as the tide must always recede back into deeper water, so does joy in the wintertime.

It is January now, & I am still thinking about that drive, recalling the journey fondly as a blur of muted colors—my favorites.

The scenery now has entirely given itself over to a jumble of leftover browns & dirty white, & the sky has already faded into a ceiling of drooping gray.

I am by the window with my notebook, as is my preference during this evening hour, when the sun is warm & golden in its descent & casts a romantic glow over everything that is usually so painfully unremarkable. This is my favorite hour, my only happy escape from the tedium of the season.

I am waiting for the streams of gold to trickle out upon the frost. There. I can almost see it! Wait. No. No, not today. Today, the sun is not going to come. The gray ceiling has chosen to be merciless. Today it is truly solid, a thick, even coating of bleakness; it offers no break for the soft winter sunbeams to peak through for me.

With a numb scowl, I accept what is denied me but remain by the window until the filtered light is fully under the horizon. Only God knows if the ceiling will break tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day either.

I bitterly think that it would be best not to hope for things at all in these downcast months. So, I turn & resolve to expect no more moments of awesome joy from nature, or anything else, until the appearance of Spring.

 

 

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