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0608 PD: A winter day

Mike Gangwer Published on 14 April 2008

Our winter period is a slog, at least this year. The snow is old, the wind does not slow, and the sediments saturate the white layer of ice.

On gravel roads near our home, sheets of ice overlay the curvature of their width, nary a place level except right in the center, where if one stands, the fall can be nearly in both directions. The ice is rutted with tire marks. Mostly farm trucks that carry a farmer in winter, in layers of brown coveralls and black gloves, the window slightly open, the dash covered in crop reports and pencils, tape measures and a few wrenches, and lately, anyway, a hand-held GPS instrument.



To wit, the ruts are born out of just a moment of a day when overhead the sun warms the ice, albeit ever slowly, and with latent heat the ice is made water, the wheel rolls, and the cavity as rut is formed. The clouds depart, the heat is lost, the ice lattice is made, the wheel pattern is left, the permanence a record of a farmer and a truck.

The gravel road is shallow in spots. Here, a wind drift has shoved snow into the depression, the snow white and light, but embedded against a snowplow path, on the right or left, so that the wind is uplifted over it, with a certain velocity that does not have kinetic energy for snow particles. Here, the ruts are nonexistent, the solar energy does not reach the gravel bed, the drift is obscured, and the color of white is slightly made luminance.

The culvert is ahead. It divides the road longitudinally. In the culvert are animals born out of the previous spring and summer. They are brown and slow-moving. They share their quarters with grass residue, the grime of waters having receded, the birds that drink from a pinhole of ice downward into liquid flowing east to west, cold and clear, of bluish tint, and then there are creatures I cannot see, but they are there, tranformationalists, of perhaps a twig made into a single atom that accepts an electron, like oxygen.

At some spacing are trees, now brown and naked, thus sap slowed, the xylem empty, and the buds hibernating in a sauce of sugar devoid of enzymes. Here, and over there, and beyond, are smaller wooded plants that live near birds and rodents, of synchrony and symbiosis, of lovely tissue and rough foliage. And in this space is ecology, the beauty of a large world is manifest as congruence in a small space, balanced and cold, and largely hidden but raw and open and wide for howling winds winding eastbound after the Plains States have been swept (Oh, Willa Cather!).

There are tracks. I am watching them fill with snow. The memory of a footprint etched for a period, then filled, then gone, yet for the energy that remains while ice and snow particles are compressed. The wanderings of deer in search of red berries, the traveling ground squirrel jutting across the roadway perhaps finding a neighbor, the slow-moving possum or big rat, stopping and contemplating the direction of a small rat; the small rat, never stopping until reaching his home beneath the ground, a dark and cold place, where a nest of twigs, ever small, is built that retains the heat of a star 93 million miles away, in the recent distant time of a July mid-afternoon, when in a millisecond a carbon is fixed and Rubisco is in command.


The light is nearly done. The orbit of our orb is east to west; the vision of fusion is soon ebbed. With a stillness settling over the landscape, the warm blood of creatures retain the combustion of what once filled the seemingly emptiness of voids, slowed and bent slightly by gravity, sticking a pigment, exciting an electron, and in a rampant orbit quite unlike ours around the sun, it is settled into a higher plane. Here, in the formation of the yearnings of all chemists, is made a molecule against the gradient, uphill, where thus a violation of thermodynamics is overcome, overstretched, overwhelmed, with an outcome that in winter, the life stored in a blood cell of such complexity only a poet understands.

And so is the realm of poetry and writers, we pick up where science can no longer explain, the measurements are not defined as metrics, the flux density no longer obeying calculus, and the linearity of temporal seconds is clouded.

Not so for this evening. Here, on this windswept wintry gravel road, is the unclouded view from here. PD