Saturday, January 5, 2013

A season of snowdrifts, silence and seclusion

January is a month of quiet.

Walking in our yard, I hear the crunch of snow beneath my booted feet – and little else.

I listen to the silence.

The frigid temperatures on this first weekend of the New Year keep our neighbors tucked warm inside. The only sign of habitation on our street is the fragrance of wood smoke in the air.

Our neck of the woods is blanketed in white, snow clinging to trees and dusting rooftops. The driveway and front stairs are coated with ice, despite plowing and shoveling right after the storm.

Tiny black-capped chickadees take turns darting in and out of the pine trees to the birdfeeder and back, and they take no notice of my passing.

New Englander Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about these friendly little birds:

“Piped a tiny voice hard by, / Gay and polite, a cheerful cry– / Chic-chicadeedee! Saucy note / Out of sound heart and merry throat, / As if it said, ‘Good-day, good sir! / Fine afternoon old passenger! / Happy to meet you in these places / Where January brings few faces.’”

Although it is tempting to hibernate today, we brave the cold, jump into the Dodge Ram and head to the beach.

It is early morning, and there are few cars on these country roads.

After checking the summer house, which is snug and sleeping soundlessly in a long winter nap, we drive down to the beach. The sand is as hard as ice, and we hear a crackling sound as we navigate over the sediment and crystals.

There are gale-force winds today, and the Sakonnet is deep gray reflecting wintry skies above.

I spot one brave soul walking along the beach with two passive dogs at his side. They amble slowly against the unforgiving wind, perhaps regretting this day’s frosty romp by the sea.

Wrapping my arms about me, I scan the horizon. There are winter fields of white across the bay and meringue-coated houses clinging to the hillsides.

I crank down the window and strain to listen to the slough and sigh of the waves, while the wind tunnels into the cabin. A minute later, I shut the window, sorry for the impulse.

In the quiet, cool confines of the truck, I think about this new season and its restrictions. I know that there will be time enough to venture out into the world and explore. But for now, January urges us to sit a spell.

Emerson wrote: “Over the winter glaciers / I see summer glow / And through the wild-piled snowdrifts / The warm rose-buds below.”

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