It is the darkness of midwinter that gets to me, far more than the cold. This darkness is even more of a factor here in Western Washington, where not only are the days shorter than they were back in Vermont, but we also have long stretches of cold, rainy greyness: day after chilly, dreary day, with no real light. It is hard not to feel crushed by it; or at least, it's hard to feel motivated to do much beyond curling up on the couch with a stack of books and drinking endless cups of hot tea.
The equinox is past, though at times it is hard to see it. It is still darkish when I head off for work, darker still when I arrive home afterward.
Saturday, there is a break in the weather. It is cold, but clear. And for once, I have no errands or chores that must be completed during daylight hours. The walking trail beckons. How long has it been since I last took a long walk? A month? More? With the holidays, the wet weather, the dark, I've practically gone into hibernation.
My dog Cisco must feel the constriction even more than I do. True, he has a big yard to run in, and I try to get out and play with him a bit when I can, even in semi-darkness. He has other dogs to frisk with, if only through and along the fence. But these things are hardly a substitute for a long walk on the trail, with new scents all along the way, the thrill of meeting others, countless doggie readerboards. When I take his leash from the peg by the door, he goes ballistic: circling, bouncing, dancing; whining with eagerness. I clip on his leash, tuck a small notepad and a stubby pencil in my back pocket, and head out the door.
The world along the trail has melted into itself since we last ventured out. Leaves that lay in fluffy, colored piles a few months back have all but disappeared into the ground. Miniature creeks sweep along through stream beds that will dry out by summer. I stop a moment to watch and listen. Cisco looks up at me, his face spread in a grin, his white-tufted tail held high like a banner. He is nearly vibrating with joy.
Around one bend in the trail, I come across pale-bellied leaves that look for all the world like feathers. For the fraction of a moment, I think they *are* feathers, and my heart beats wildly as I glance around for the scene of slaughter that must be nearby. Then I realize their true identity and relax. I bend to look at them, struck by how beautiful they are. They are a symbol not of death, but of renewal; of letting go so that the new may be embraced: a fitting reflection here at the beginning of the new year. I want to capture the scene, but my camera is back at the house; I only have my phone, and I'm not used to the camera yet. The picture is imperfect, but enough to remind me. I take a few more shots along the way back: memories of one bright day.