Friday, January 7, 2011


The Transcendent Tundra

Like most men I am captivated by women who possess the triple threat combination of beauty, brains, and boldness. In this particular instance the object of my fascination is a rather complicated creature. Freud would assign her with labels such as obsessive/compulsive, passive/aggressive, and possibly manic/depressive. She can be as volatile as she is serene. She can inspire one moment and terrify the next. She is generous and miserly. Her beauty is the fodder of poets and her wrath causes men to find their misplaced religion. She is an international superstar and the girl next door. Even her anger has a beauty that enthralls. She is older than the hills and as fresh as 'the darling buds of May'. Her name is "Mother Nature".

Winter here on the tundra gives a person plenty of opportunity to ruminate over one's environment. It is cold. Not as cold as it could be or has been but cold enough to brave the outdoors to gather up the wood for the fire that warms the thought processes.

The snow that fell before Christmas is what led me to ponder the mind of Mother Nature. I watched as she placed big fluffy flakes ever so gently upon every needle of every branch in the pines and firs. But she also took care to outline all the twigs and branches of the other leafless trees so as not to have them feel left out. Everything was highlighted--white upon green or brown against a greyish blue backdrop. The lower branches of the pines became so laden that they bent down towards the ground to create the flying buttresses for miniature Gothic cathedrals of snow and wood for the red squirrels to worship in. Vespers were said in the awesome silence wrapped in white.

Over the next few days the sun's warmth erased the scene so carefully constructed. Mother Nature took it in stride and yielded up her crystal confections to dazzle the eye. As each branch freed itself a cascade of pure white confetti caught the light as they joined their compatriots blanketing the ground. All in a deafening silence of delight.

The next snow was not so pleasant. She wasn't about to repeat herself. She tossed it down at us like a gauntlet and laughed as we attempted to pick it up. She's like that sometimes. And who can blame her? Humankind has as long a passive/aggressive-obsessive/compulsive-manic/depressive history with her as she has had with us. We rearrange her landscapes, we reconstitute the air in her skies, we exploit the resources in her waters. No one likes to be criticized or improved upon, least of all her. So every now and then she shakes things up a bit, blows out the candles along a few coastlines and prairies, and gives a few places a good dousing. It's just her way of reminding us that, do what we will, she's still the boss.

She is a strange mistress. Her daily routine keeps me humble while elevating my soul to her level. She gives only to take it away in order to reimburse you with something else. As benevolent as she is, it is a very dangerous misstep to take advantage of or for granted what she has to offer. Winter on the tundra behind the back woods lends itself to the realization that she and we are not so very different. We want to be appreciated and respected, loved and cared about. My only resolution for the new year is to be mindful of my place in her scheme of things and vice versa.