December 25, 2002

Winter Walk Part Two

There is little difference between a summer breath drawn indoors or out. But with the first breathing in of winter air, you know that you have stepped out into a world that is remarkable for those things that are now missing from it. Heat is only one of the absent characters. Winter outdoors is a play on a stage vaguely familiar, from which most of the props have been temporarily removed. Diminished are color, smell, and the sounds and motion of living nature. Even molecules move with lethargy. Come the play of winter, all the best lines have been spoken by autumn; and, except for the wind, there are no words.

Summer is soft, yielding, supple. Winter is hard, unyielding and brittle. You can feel winter through your feet and hear it in your steps. Cold dry air has its own smell, and it almost seems that there is a sound that belongs to cold of winter. The sound of winter is the sound of breathing, ears muffled keeping the beating of your own heart trapped in wool, like an echo in an empty shell. No birds call, insects sleep frozen solid under bark and sod. Winter smells of wool and wrapped pink flesh underneath. From beyond the thick encumbering shroud of winter clothes there is only the near-fragrance of frost. No motes of aroma escape on warm currents from spicebush, sassafras, white pine, from dank soft creek mud or pasture clover. There should be a olfactory adjective, like 'monochrome', to describe the stark lunar aromasphere of winter.

But wait! Even walking in this Winter Desert of Things Missing, there, mousy brown against the gray-brown road bank stands the tiny frail inverted candelarbra remains of last year's Pennyroyal. Oh how can I tell you the wonders of it! Years ago, living southern, empty without mountains in my life and surrounded by pastures paved and creeks captive, culverted and broken, I found a pressed vestige of the mountains between the pages of a favorite book long abandoned for journals and textbooks. My dear old friend, Pennyroyal. Pressed in books and even in winter fields, it carries the smell of the southern Appalachians, if you stop and warm it with your hands. I took the fragment from the book, and held it to my face with some hesitation, almost fearfully, crushing it gently in my palm. And, as I knew it would, it brought tears in a way that only those uniquely personal smell-memories can do. Bitter. Sweet. Minty-musty memory of mountains. That is all I know.

Winter Walk Part One

Posted by fred1st at December 25, 2002 09:53 AM | TrackBack
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