The sun went down half an hour ago, and there is a nearly perfect stillness in the evening. I stand outside and wonder how such a night is possible, how — in the great cycle of air masses thrusting and obtruding their way across the planet, boiling up from the oceans and scattering over the plains — this small-valley quiet comes to be.
The grass in the field is as thick as a woodchuck’s fur and just now giving up its green to darkness, which is settling like a cold dew. If there were leaves on the trees, they would show where the wind lies, turning slightly in the way I might quote a poet to describe. Instead, there are stiff blossoms, the buds of a spring that is about to happen. Every twig seems to end in a red knot. In the uplands, people are still dragging winter to the roadside — tangled hedgerows of ice-broken limbs. I got a glimpse today of the last snow slowly rotting on a ski slope. Winter has a stillness, but it’s nothing like the stillness of a spring evening, when it feels as though every living thing has stopped quivering with expectation just for the moment.
I passed a clump of deer on the roadside the other afternoon, and they looked as though they had been carved out of decaying wood. It was a trick of the light. A much more solid deer is walking along the high ridge-line that borders this property. It pauses and looks down over this house, or perhaps it’s looking to the sound of the river, which is nearly as quiet now as it will be at midsummer. The sound of the river takes over for the sound of the missing wind, which has been rattling the windows for the past few months.
I know what grows in the warmth and the expanding light of spring. But I wonder tonight what grows in this stillness. Perhaps it’s only the mosquitoes hunting for the first time this year, or the Diptera that will be rising and falling along the river’s edge tomorrow morning. But I think something human grows in the stillness of a night like this — fulfillment, if you like, or an untroubled hope. Soon the stars, and a late-rising moon, will add what they can to the calm outside.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
The Rural Life: Perfectly Still
From the NY Times, April 18, 2009 by the wonderful Verlyn Klinkenborg: