Goodbye, January



In this new year, I’ve kinda committed to go through each month’s photographs, and cull them down a bit, saving only the very favorites which are a reflection of my experience.  Turns out, it’s not that easy to be sure that a photograph represented how I’ve felt about a certain day, after the fact.  As I began to look over January’s, I was surprised at how many photos of light there were, given how dark the month has been.  I took this one a few days ago, as we were driving back home from seeing a movie in town.  Don, in continual pursuit of a smooth sheet of ice, wanted to check the lake here at Wayfarer’s Park.   I didn’t expect to see anyone else, but we saw a family with a couple of little kids running about, and a pair out walking their dog– all of us enjoying the spectacular light in a late, cold January day.

Yesterday afternoon,  I had to unexpectedly make the 160 mile round trip down to Seeley Lake and back.  Don’s car had broken down, and was left for repairs, after his ski race on Saturday, and he needed to be shuttled down there to pick it up.  I’ve talked here about the drive through the Seeley-Swan, many times.  It’s how we go east from home, a long two-lane ribbon of highway, hemmed in by tall forests of trees, with regular vistas of lakes and snow-capped jagged mountain ranges.  Ordinarily, this time of year, it’s snow-packed or icy, and you’re bound to be stuck behind a logging truck which spews a constant splatter of gravel on the windshield.  You’re lucky to make it on only one jug of windshield wiper fluid.  But, not yesterday.  The road was dry, the sun was shining, and clear of traffic.  I passed just one car and then had the road to myself.

There’s no cell service or radio signal, and no CDs in the car, so it’s one of those times when you are really unplugged and off the grid.  Other than watching for suicidal deer to cross the road, I was free to see if I could remember which creek crossing sign was coming up next, glance out at the majestic peaks, or study the color of shadows in the snow.  And, I thought about the light, and how at 3 p.m., late in winter, there is a unique quality to it.  It’s no longer low on the horizon, nor is it high above the trees.  It seems to have stalled, taken a break, just quieted down a bit before it will soon need to regenerate green life again in the trees and plants.  It made me think of when the girls were little, and I was expecting them home from elementary school, and I’d look out the window to see them come safely home in that quieted down light of winter.

Back at the house, it was time to make dinner, turn on the day’s worrisome news, and get back into the game.  But, when I went to bed last night, and thought about what would have been a good photograph for the day I’d just had,  I thought about the 3 p.m. light in the Seeley-Swan, on the second to the last day of January, and how necessary it is, in dark times, to catch whatever light we might find in a day.  It’s another commitment, crucial to make, in this ‘tell me, what is it you plan to do with this one wild and precious life’.   (Mary Oliver).

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