Shortest Days

Sitting at the kitchen table, watching the sunlight pour down the western ridge.

A flock of fat bluejays explores the garden around the house, a titmouse, junco and cardinal are in the azalea by the porch. Now the cardinal is in the lilac. What a treat to see his deep, sleek red. This little feathered flurry around the house and porch, the exploring of its nooks and crannies seems like a morning greeting of sorts.

The sky before sunrise was a quiet, milky white. Transformed by dawn into pink, drifty clouds sailing against a sudden blue. Color bleeds from the southeast across the entire southern sky. A miracle of sorts.

But life seems increasingly fickle and fleeting, like the waning days. It is cold now. I watch the wood pile shrink. The circle contracts. Reality shifts. I live mostly in the kitchen. I tape up the doors against the wind. Hang blankets, lower blinds. Summer seems a distant world, a place where I once lived but can barely remember.

The sun travels a shallow arc, skirting the southern horizon. When clouds part, light pours into the house at a steep, sharp slant. Land glows with a brilliance that cannot be matched by the glare of midsummer. Clover the cat follows the light as it moves from window to window.

Daylight fails. It feels as if time is both sped up and stood still. A profound and sudden darkness settles over the landscape. The sunset colors are fierce. Stunning and brief. Soon the moon will be full. Well after sundown, she emerges from behind the hills across the river, a bent circle, white and cold. Stars crackle and spin in the rarified air. The Milky Way burns a path across the sky. Coyote song sets the constellations into a sparkling, shivering tremor.