A Perfect Place to Read

Woke up a bit late this morning after spending most of the night Lightrooming a bunch of pictures I took around Killarney Lake as part of a decision I made to make my peace with winter this year by getting out and taking pictures of…um…I can say this…um…

“Go ahead, Biff,” said the fox. “You can do it. Just say it. Say it, Biff.”

…um…uh…

“Say it, Biff. Say it.”

Snow.

Ouch. That hurt.

“Say it agai..” the fox tried to say.

Fuck off, fox.

As I was saying, I woke up late, but there was still time to get out into the woods with my camera. So I bundled up, put on my new boots (that will allow me to go into the woods father than my running shoes could ever take me), put a 17-40mm lens on my camera and headed out. I also packed something extra for this trip.

As I often do, I set out without any real idea about where I was going to go. Woods. That was the theme for today. I was pretty damn sure I could find woods somewhere around Freddie Beach, which is kind of in the middle of a giant forest. The idea is to drive around until I see something that turns my crank…or just get a feeling that I’m where I’m supposed to be and it’s time to pull over and find out why. I get some of my best pictures this way. Though I did stop by a parking lot before seeking woods to take a picture of a door that I’d decided had to be done at a dinner party the night before. I knew this because I called myself and left a message.

I drove for about twenty minutes with the Replacements pounding out Somebody Take the Wheel before I came to an interesting tree line. Something about the place seemed right, so I parked my car illegally in a place where nobody was going to be around on the weekends, put my backpack on, hung my camera from my neck and headed across a field toward the woods.

“You parked illegally?” said the fox.

“It was the weekend. Nobody was around. Nobody would give a damn. Please do not distract me into irrelevant side talks when I’m trying to stay focused.”

“Gee…sorry, Biff…I was just trying to…”

The snow in the field was deep but no match for my new boots. I made it into the woods without swearing once. If you know me, you’ll know this was a minor Sunday miracle. I even stopped to take a picture of the field.

1

The woods were dense with a variety of trees and lots of bushes with sharp pointy branches that tried repeatedly to skew me, but I’ve pulled beer-loaded canoes through thick alder bushes. These bushes were no match for me and my boots.

2

I took picture after picture but nothing I was capturing captured my interest to the extent that I would say, “Hmm…very interesting.” Nothing.

Until I looked up.

Above me was a perfect blue sky with big white clouds and the trees were reaching up into that magnificent porridge of sky. And I had my ultra wide angle lens on my camera. I started pointing the camera up into stuff like this…

3

I think I took about thirty shots like this before I thought…hmm…enough of this. Look for something else, but nothing really grabbed me until I looked up and saw this…

4

Took this one in a clearing that had a strange sound coming from somewhere. It was a familiar sound, but I couldn’t quite place it. “Oh well,” I thought, “time to do it with that extra thing I brought.” A literary journal with one of my poems that I managed to trick an editor into publishing. I read this poem at a wedding and gave it to the newly weds, but I didn’t think they’d mind me reading it to the woods. It’s the kind of thing they would do.

So I read the poem to the woods…

Just Enough

When I was the wind, I played the leaves of the forests
Like Miles Davis on a horse and caffeine high
Like the acoustic motherload jazzing a sea of chlorophyll
With tidal waves of wind rhythm, the trees bending to the beat
Of my exhalation

When I was an avalanche of snow thundering down a mountain slope
Like the universe unhinged, I shook the foundations of the earth
And howled through the valleys under the red explosive sunrise
Of my chug-a-lugging heart

When I was the froth on a wall of waves, I battered the sea cliffs into
Slow submission, turning rock into sand and carrying the sand
Into the bustling bowl of the ocean’s porridge of life
With the flick of my salty tongue

When I was alive for a brief second, ducking the swing of forever’s pendulum,
I scratched the veneer of the world

Just enough

I read this loud and exuberantly so that every bough on every tree, every hibernating beast, every deep root and every particle of snow could hear it and when I finished, the woods moved slightly. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but it came to me within a few seconds. A shrug. A whisper carried on the breeze, “OK…but do better next time.”

Winter…I’ll get you yet. I have, what? Six more months.

I moved farther into the woods and the sound that perplexed me grew louder and more distinct. It was water. At just about the time this realization hit me, I saw it…a stream meandering through the woods. Still open and flowing freely.

5

I took a few more shots and would have put on my 70-200mm to get some close-ups of ice patterns but my fingers were frozen and getting sluggish. It was time to head back for some heat and coffee.

But I’m going to do this every time I go into the woods this winter…I’m going to take a poem and read it to the woods. My way of returning the favor for all the beauty God gives us.

(NOTE: Bought thermal gloves, thermal long underwear and a thermal top. Ready for the next six months of winter now.)

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