Several weeks ago:
After days of wind the upper prayer flags are gone. A short length of braided cotton tied around a slender branch is all that remains. The prayer flags themselves have flown, and, as usual, I can’t sight them anywhere in neighboring trees. It would seem inevitable that once torn from their place they would be caught up somewhere in the woods around, which amount to a giant net of twigs and branches, but they never are. Do they blow straight up, and then out, over the tops of the trees? Hard to imagine.
The lower flags have also come unmoored, but as is usual for them they are strung up in the branches just below where they hung. They make a kind of twisted fabric sculpture in the air—though nowhere near as beautiful and intricate a sail-like formation as the one that formed among these branches two years ago (see photographs in the Cloth image gallery). They change shape, by slow degrees, day by day over the next week or so. There is little sunlight these days, so I’m not able to get especially beautiful photographs, but it adds interest to the daily climb to watch their configuration alter.
Earlier this week I am out early, hauling a bag or two of trash to the end of our driveway. As I turn back up the slope of the driveway I am walking toward the rising sun, and the meadow ignites in a white fire. The grasses and milkweed are thronging with fine crystals, each one minutely refracting the sun’s light. Each filament of milkweed fluff is rimed with filaments of frozen water; light compounding light. Apple trees and rocks are all frosted, though not as densely as last year in Rockfrost and Subzero: A Rose-Frosted World. I run back to the house for the camera before the sun has its way with all that delicate ice. The tree, with its higher elevation, is alas frost-free, but I start by climbing it, ritually; then on to the ephemeral frost.
And this morning, the world is as new as though just cast on the potter’s wheel, pulled from the forge this moment, paint still drying on the watercolor paper. Four inches of snow have fallen overnight and cling to everything, perched improbably on twigs and stems. December finally feels like December in Vermont.
I am in the tree with the camera when the early morning air first stirs, and clumps of snow rain down around me, shattering to powder on branches, shoulders, arms.