The lower string of flags are down.  They have drifted between the branches and are hung up in the undergrowth, only a few feet from the ladder that goes up to the tree house.  As last year, when flags from much higher up caught in branches lower down, they look like sails in the woods.  Not as elegantly this time–they are a bit more tangled and torn, a bit more ragged–but they are still visually interesting, strung up on twigs a few feet above the snow.  The two oak leaves that got caught in them in months ago are still there, stems intertwined with strands of cotton.  

Looking at them there just above the ground, I imagine a small ship suddenly bursting from the snow and sailing down over the lawn and across the meadow.  It is an interesting change to be photographing something way down here on earth, crouching in the snow instead of straining upwards, or out from the trunk of the tree, to get a good shot.  Cotton fiber, leaf, twig, snow.  The juxtaposition of textures is exhilarating.

A week later the upper flags are down too.  We have had intense winds.  Nearly every rock stack in the meadow has gone over, stones now buried beneath the snow until spring.  And the upper flags, about forty feet off the ground, are not really ‘down.’  They are just gone.  One small blue flag clings to a branch, but the rest are nowhere to be seen.  They are not in our narrow strip of woods, which means they are probably up and over the hill, snapping Buddhas in the wind in some other tree.  Offering prayers to the cosmos from some other tangle of twigs.