October 20, 2008

Morning Walk

No golden sun rises this morning. The fog lies soft over the land. The day slowly lightens to a white-grey tint, all the fall colors seeming somehow more subdued. The many-hued grass, green, yellow, orange, red, and burgundy all on a single blade topped with a golden-white tassel, stands still. No hint of a breeze stirs. The fog is here to stay. It lays across the ridgelines, shrouding the rocky tops in its blue-grey fabric, like a shall across the shoulders of an old woman protecting herself against winter’s oncoming chill. The air smells like snow.

The blackened branches of a dead aspen tree rise above its golden children. There a lone dark bird sits, unmoving. A tap, tap, taping draws the ear to the right, where somewhere in the trees a woodpecker is about its day’s work. A bit of movement reveals the small black and white bird diligently making its way up an old ponderosa’s trunk.

Down the path my feet carry me, in search of warm tea and a bite of breakfast. I have woken late on this grey day. Others have long since been to breakfast and moved on, leaving my path empty and quite. Three dark horses stand still in the meadow. One raises is head, showing the stark white blaze that bisects his face, his ears swiveled forward to watch the black-clad, two legged creature crunching down the gravel trail. He returns to cropping the last of the dried grass.

I reach the fence line and whistle, a single, long, piercing note slicing through the still air, carrying far in the soft quiet. Three heads rise, three sets of ear swivel. I whistle again and a great dark shape begins to move. He walks forward purposely, but unhurried, legs moving, great body swaying. He looks even larger than when I saw him just yesterday. His shaggy winter coat is coming in. He reaches the fence and I hold out one bear hand to meet his muzzle, his hot breath blowing over my chilled skin, dark against pale. He stands quietly while I run my rand over his head, scratch under his forelock and behind his ears, softly rub the velvet of his chin, cup the hard bones of his jaw and cheeks. He permits all this, and watches me, drawing in my scent.

After a time, I move on, leaving him still standing by the fence, one back leg cocked, head drooping, dozing. I cross the boardwalks and pass the old log cabin. Here and there trees are down, their stumps bright and straight cut by a chainsaw. Humans are doing what was once left to fire, clearing the forest to give the healthiest trees a chance to grow large and stately with age.

A raven caws and then another. From the north come two dozen of the black birds, calling the each other, wheeling and diving and soaring. They settle in the tall pines sheltering the trail where I walk. To see one or two of the birds is a frequent thing, but so many gathered together is a sight to behold, and frightening to listen to with their raucous voices. They are the only movement, the only sound in this still, still world, where even the cheerful prayer flags hang limp and subdued and the Gesar banners do not wave.

The great mountains themselves wait patiently for winter to come.

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