Jan 16, 2011
I opened my eyes to a crème-colored sky. Shortcake infused with the faintest blush of strawberry pink. I blinked. The boar-bristle edge of the ridge across the valley appeared as if etched, each tree limb precisely carved and filled with black ink. I blinked again, my vision undiluted by snow or fog or cloud, and felt an upwelling of wonderment akin to what I experienced when I was 12, and walked outside wearing prescription lenses for the first time.
I sat up and looked out the window behind my bed.
After what had, in truth, been only days (although on certain days it surely felt like years!) since the sky dawned clear, my world appeared rendered in the miracle of High Definition. All fuzzy edges remade with Exact-o blade precision. The battleship gray of snow-storm and frozen-fog replaced with an Allegheny Mountain Winter’s true colors: white, black, amber and green.
True colors, shining through.
As I let my eyes take-in the crystalline ridge top scene just beyond the bedroom window, I remembered what Jake would say when he was little and we watched a black-and-white movie. “But it’s not black-and-white, it’s gray.” Back then I completely got what he was saying. Zebras are black-and-white. Penguins are black-and-white. Oreo cookies are black-and-white. The Number 2 pencil-drawn figures on the TV are not black-and-white. Silly Mommy.
But now, his words have a different sort of resonance. To live an Allegheny Mountain Winter is much like finding oneself in an old, “gray” movie.
Except on those rare occasions when it’s not.
This particular morning was one of those occasions. As in the modern “gray” movie, Pleasantville, I awakened to find the gray rubbed off, revealing a startling spectrum of life always present, regardless how hidden.
The deep, dark green of conifer boughs shown to full advantage topped by epaulets of sun-struck, sparkling snow. Amber grasses curved permanently against a wind that only this early morning had found somewhere else to blow. Arcs carved in the snow beneath each tasseled stalk belied their current ease with tattooed proof of the wind’s recent harassment. The sepia delicacy of dried yarrow blossoms, crocheted doilies set just-so among the sofa-like drifts by a fussbudget maiden aunt. A single yellow American Beech leaf, skittering across the brilliant white blanket as if pulled by an invisible string.
And birds. Yes, birds. Not huddled feather-by-wing near the porch feeder, but zooming about the yard! Flitting and flouncing and sassy-dancing. A jubilee of juncos, a cache of chickadees, and my resident singletons: Ted, the aloof, all-business tufted titmouse, and no-neck Danny, a nuthatch with enough personality for a nuthouse.
I raised the window behind the bed and leaned toward the fresh air, which lapped against my face like a splash of spring water. Sight. Sensation. And then, suddenly, sound. Smacking stips and buzzing tzeets and cackling chatters. The high, clear, keew of the juncos intermingled with the throaty, bossy "Are you talking to me?" dee-dee-dee of the chickadees.
Such a mid-winter symphony! And every bird looking so fine. Tail feathers a-zip-pop-snapping. Heads cocked, beaks open. I easily imagined the gleam in their eyes.
That same gleam was in mine.
Sure, another storm will come. The gray film will roll. Silence, save for the sound of wind, will prevail. Subtitle duty will, as usual, devolve to me. And I’ll have to create my own narrative. But this particular morning, I got a reminder wrapped in a reprieve.
Rub away the gray, just scratch the surface—a single scratch will do—and there it is: see it, feel it, hear it.