Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Path Through the Snow

            My feet can't find their footing
            The snow gives way, then holds, gives way again
            according to some code it has learned
            from sky and wind, frost and white fall
            too ancient to express in human terms
            Earth wears its old white bandage like a habit
            even when it dirties on the edges,
            or melts to mud in the in the sun-soft patches
            of a trail I can walk each day
            finding only the prints of the someone else
            who asked these questions of earth, sky, wind
            and turning earth and found answers
            always the same, always different.  

So last weekend we had the kind of snowstorm that when it's over leaves you with less snow than when it started.
         I go to the marsh on the Quincy Wollaston Beach shoreline to walk my usual path, but it's in that stage where some of the snow has melted and refrozen so many times that from step to step you can't tell whether you are going to plunge through the crust or not. After falling through a few dozen times, I give up, struggle uphill a few feet, will myself under a few pointy branches and find a path where a line of yellow grass is already free of snow. Mini eco-systems everywhere around here.
         From some stretches of the irregular loop trail that wanders like a careless necklace or chain thrown on a bed, irregular, looped one way and the other so the perspective is constantly changing, some of the marsh is completely open. It's all yellow spartina marsh grass, most of it flattened down by the succession of storms. In a few shaded places the snow still bunches up. In some of snow-free patches, snow-fed mud is exposed in the channels, especially at low tide, where it looks like old sodden weather in need of something in its stomach and strong cup of coffee. At other times when the tide is high, the channels fill with clean salt water shining with reflected blue from the skies.
       Where the snow is thin among a long flat stretch of marsh, I found Canada geese in their multitudes today. Another fleet of them hunkers around shore side, closer to the beach. Squadrons leave each of these with great honking declarations and end up landing close to one of the other formations.
       More bird life is visible and audible in this, the last month of winter. I heard a blue jay squawking today and a woodpecker worked steadily nearby when I was forced out of a crunchy snow stone into the cover of trees where the snow is mostly melted. The woodpecker did not seem to mind when I stopped to watch him work, producing a clatter a boy banging a tree trunk with a stick. Probably louder.
       Birds are the tongues of the trees. Sunsets are fire in the winter sky. The trees hold everything in place. It's there when we need it.