Tuesday, December 01, 2009


The snow that always follows Thanksgiving came last night. One moment I looked out the window to see the moon floating among a few clouds in the east. A little later I looked out again and snow was flying.

The first sign that it’s on the way is often a wave of warm air, still and peaceful, quite deceptive. Then you look at the Rockies and a storm shelf is building up on the west side, a piling-up of clouds like a second mountain range -- sometimes as dark and much higher than the actual mountains. Over the mountain range stands a Chinook arch, which means that the clouds are blown back so they form a big curve in the sky, blue in the middle but outlined by cloud with a sharp edge towards the wind. They will be very high clouds, so sometimes there are other smaller, lower clouds wandering through the blue arc. The wind moves down lower. It is part of the great jet stream that the airliners ride across the continent as though they were ships in the great currents of the ocean. Now the wind is along the ground and beating hard against the house.

Pretty soon the wind stops. The silence makes you stop and listen. Then there is whispering as snow travels across the windowpane. The light changes outside because it is reflecting on white ground. In a few hours it changes again because the main storm has passed, the clouds have thinned, and the moon is just behind them. Everything outdoors is “steel blue,” the cold color of the stage gel for tinting light that’s supposed to be moonlight.

In fact, this broad landscape is often best interpreted in the colors of stage gels. This morning it’s clear and the thin white cover of snow is striped with “bastard amber” sunlight (they still call it that) vibrating with “double blue” stripes of shadow, while literally “straw” colored stubble sticks up in the long swaths of strip fallow. (http://stagespot.com/colorchoice.html for a nice essay about stage lighting.) It’s cold and predicted to go colder.

While outside is so bright, my inside decor is turning towards deep color: shiny Roman stripes of coffee, cranberry, and evergreen, cranberry corduroy on the wicker chair, purple-and-gold quilt made for me by the Hagmann women on the sofa, gilt and sienna ruffled pillows, and in the window my two strands of tinsel. Depending from my chandelier are small satin and gilt Swedish Christmas ornaments, birds and lambs with a white dove flying in the middle. This year I think I will stick my big snowflakes to the windows. When I put them up, generally others will appear around town but they tend to be square, since it is evidently hard to figure out how to fold typing paper in thirds. (The secret is to fold it in half, cut off the excess so you have a square, start to fold that into fourths but only pinch it in the middle for a guide for making a three-fold . Fold that in half and cut. If you use a sheet of tissue paper, you can cut through many more layers. I try to mix angle cuts and circles.)

That’s all I’m going to do. I hope people don’t send me stuff because I mostly re-gift it. I’m careful not to let on that I have much fun alone because then people want to come join me and I don’t want that either, though I like to hear from people -- friends or not. Even enemies so long as they don’t show up on the doorstep.

In a strange recent phenomenon, blogs are disappearing as though they were leaves. The only two other blogs in Valier, one photos and one short poetic writing, have both stopped. Across Montana one accomplished novelist in the East and one admired poet in the West have both stopped. Internationally, Jake at Old Scrote has suddenly begun speaking in French and very rarely. Fretmarks is always sporadic and is again in a long quiet interval. 2blowhards is down to only one now, Donald who lives in Kirkland, WA, where I was the interim for a lively UU congregation. I have no idea what this means, but it has sent me on a bit of a search for new blogs to monitor. Luckily, there is no shortage! Querencia remains a major favorite, esp. since Cat Urbigit joined them with her fabulous ranch photos.

Next Sunday I will be reading at 3PM at Hastings. I’ll read from “Sweetgrass and Cottonwood Smoke” which is an exploration of theology drawn from the prairie, as though the land were a “bible.” I have copies to sell. Then I’ll add readings from “Bronze Inside and Out,” the parts that describe our participation in Blackfeet ceremonies, including a visit to Starr School in the days when the Christmas dance was still in the Round House, heated by a roaring fire in a stove made from an oil drum. Maybe I’ll add some from “Heartbreak Butte,” though it is unpublished: a midnight candlelight service in the old St. Anne’s church with the emerald green doors on a night so slick with ice that one of my former students, Angie Howe, pushed me up the path by putting her hands on my rump! When we came back out, the men of the congregation made a line and handed us along until we got down to our cars.

The forecast for Sunday is too far in the future to be real, but it appears that it will be cold enough to need to restart our cars now and then to keep them warm. When I was teaching, one faculty member -- usually the shop teacher -- would go out and start all the teacher cars every few hours so they would start at the end of the work day. Now the kids have as many cars as the teachers do. When I was teaching in Heart Butte, the faculty always left for Thanksgiving vacation on dry ground but returned in that first major snow storm, often pushing snow up to their hood ornaments. This year they only got four inches up there. I can see it from here. One of the kids said, “Why don’t you go home for Thanksgiving?” I explained, “I’m already home.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A lovely column, filled with mood, colors, and a masterful command of weather.