Christmas has exited and the New Year waits, an ingenue quivering with eagerness, in the wings. In the interim, the stage is bare; tension releases; there is universal exhalation. These are the winter days between celebrations. Sunlight is white and angled; the world looks washed clean. Trees are bare against a sky alternately deep blue or stormy gray. The temperature drops along with last leaves. Quiescence and silver frost enchant the land.
At night, a persistent wind moans through the pines of these Sierra foothills. I lie abed listening to what the miners of the Gold Rush called Mariah. It is my earliest memory, this doleful yet energizing sound. The derivation means sea of bitterness, or possibly rebelliousness, but for me it is the voice of this mountain, speaking its news and its truths through all the forest community of plants and animals—and humans, should we bother to listen. In it I learn of weathers arriving or departing, of the vigorous exaltation of wild,wet storms, of the might of natural forces, of a power that dwarfs humankind.
Lulled and lifted by wind, my mind arcs out over the months past, seeking the year’s particular pattern and meaning, reviewing its highlights and abysmal depths, veering over the lives of friends just arriving, those who continue on or who have faltered, and those who have turned back. Wind has swept away another year, and the lives of several whom I cherish. Buoyed by great, moving vortices and oceans of night air, our little lives achieve a clarity and grandeur unsuspected in the humble and jumbled day.
I find tremendous comfort in this voice conjoining earth and air,and sometimes fire and water, too. It is a huge broom sweeping away the pollution of human doings, replacing them with clean, raw energy. It speaks of a transcendence that rises above man’s puny history, like a rogue wave towering over a walker upon the beach. It soothes with eternal reassurances that, indeed, Earth abides.
Suzan Still is the author of Fiesta of Smoke and her next novel Well in Time will be released on January 20, 2015.