At forty-five degrees north here in Vermont, we know dark days. Earlier this week the overcast day had edged into darkness by mid-afternoon. But we also have days, like this one, beginning with the sun lighting the hillside across the valley, the sky becoming a quick, bright backdrop against which thousands of twigs in the trees define a glorious reality.
At dusk yesterday, the sky, soft and subtly colored, I watched in amazement as the ragged, old Box Elder for a few moments simply became radiant. I knew, even if I had my camera in hand, no photograph could have replicated what I was seeing. I love that, both about photography and about life, that they are not equivalents but partners in life’s play of light.
With this morning’s continued barrage of unthinkably bizarre human news, I am again fighting terror, the kind I might feel out on the frozen river hearing the ice begin to move, knowing the shore is too far away, realizing I’ve misjudged circumstances, that they have changed and that where I am is not safe. I am aware I have lived a life with the privilege of not experiencing these kinds of fears that are the daily companions to so many others.
These are dark days. Even though the tilt of the planet shifts back in just another ten days, I worry—like being in the middle of that frozen river—that the axis of humanity itself may have shifted.
The fact that so much of the world around remains as it has for eons is some comfort but, in fact—a word I cannot use lightly these days—so much about we humans has changed, or perhaps simply revealed itself, that I wonder if I’ll make the safety of that far shore.
May theses few photographs from the beginnings of winter in Vermont remind me of what is now and has long been real and true.
“Revealed itself”, darkness ahead indeed. Can’t stop worrying about it.
Yes, and let’s promise each other we will also take every little step we find in front of ourselves to bring the nation back into the light.
Yes, let’s do. Every little step counts.
John, this is such an articulate, thoughtful post (all of yours are, but this one especially fits in this time). I’m on that frozen river with you, feeling the ice shift and crack–but you give me solace with the words “what is now and has long been real and true.” The natural world is part of that reality and truth–but so are we humans. Our country is but one on the planet, and others will be on the rise if ours–as it seems to be doing–is on the wane. I still want to believe in hope, even if that means turning to other places and other peoples.
“What is now and has long been real and true” is what William Faulkner said in is amazing, short Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1950 (excuse the male pronoun!):
“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”
Or Anne Frank, saying, on July 15, 1944: “It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”
Dark days, indeed–but others have faced them before and endured, so long as we don’t let the darkness into our hearts and minds.
Thank you, as always, for providing the context. Keeping light in our hearts!
Amazing shots. I love the layered mountains. I see similar views in the Pacific NW. I’m still trying to get a shot that captures what I see. Maybe the camera can’t replicate it. Also – as always – I love what you’ve written. So good to have friends like you in these times.
Beautiful images in the midst of a surreal time.