The crispness of the seventeen degree air as I stepped outside this morning was a blunt reminder that it's winter. The snow has come and gone again, except for where old man winter's gale gathered great drifts and heaps of it. Ice remains where foot or paw trampled wet snow. Soon, so soon, it will be replaced by ferns and dame's rockets. And soon, raucous spring birdsong. And the improved quality of the light reminded me that spring is just around the corner. Spring...
Walking to my car, my eyes were drawn to the valley below, and at the trees lining the creek. Softwoods all, their tops illuminated by a hazy sun still hanging low, were anything but a picture of winter bleakness. There was a silvery look to the bottom of the "hollow", and a beautiful silence in the air.
It stopped me in my tracks. Inhaling slowly and deeply, I absorbed the moment. Or several as it turned out to be. How could I dash away, as if nature had not set this stage before me?
A veil of pewter-gray rose off of Rough Run. I could see it happening in my mind's eye. The "crick" ice covered for the most part, but misting where the water moved too fast to freeze, and the big rock on the edge of the water at the corner of the property where a Wild Juneberry Tree hangs half way across the creek. The corner of the rock juts up as if a mighty hand jammed it at an angle, into the swift moving water. A splendid place to go in the summer--and this morning, a splendid place to go in my mind. I marvelled at just how sublime nature is.
I was a long way off from the hoarfrost covering every little twig and tip of every tree, every little weed and black willow in the valley, but I pictured it, each delicate crystal stacked on top of other equally delicate crystals. So fragile, all it takes is a warm breath of an exhaled, "Wow..." for them to vanish.
And the inner logic kicked in, as it usually does. I thought about the hoarfrost crystals. And I recalled the answer to a question I posed years ago in my youth. In my youth...Definitely years ago...
I'd wondered how mist, or a fog can drift around in the air, in liquid form (tiny beads of water) when the weather is below freezing. That was the beginning of my understanding about crystals. That water is liquid when it "steams" up into air. When water that is even marginally warmer than the sub-freezing air around it sends water droplets into the air, they drift around until they have an "event". In the case of hoarfrost, the droplets drift around until they have a collision with a tree branch, a weed, or another crystal. That event is the catalyst for crystal formation in the below freezing air. So those droplets are waiting for an event.
I derailed my train of thought and continued toward my car. And as I drove to work, I realized that my mind was far, far from spring thoughts. I was noticing the glorious winter sights around me while I drove. And the thought occurred to me that I had left the house this morning, waiting for an event. My thoughts had so readily turned to spring. But the hoarfrost on the softwoods in the valley had brought me back to the moment, to the world around me, not dreaming about what was coming just around the corner. Instead, I was lost in the present.
I don't mean that it's wrong to look ahead, to enjoy upcoming events, occasions that bring joy (like springtime), but there is something to be said for searching out the beauty and the joy in the present moment. We can't spend our entire lives waiting for an event.