Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Yellow Leaves

The cottonwoods down low by the creeks that cut the canyons linger; yellow, incandescing the cold water from the first snows on the mountains above, where the bare aspen branches knit and enfold tunnels of ice through the forest.  Snow rests on the north sides of each ridge where the receding late fall sun can no longer reach on the thousand lake mountain. The deer standing at the edge of a misty glade on the hard gray dirt wait for the fading of the last pale red light. Startled as I emerge into the clearing they retreat to the hollow dark of the trees, white tails bouncing through a cloud of hoof pitched snow. Fall is ending here.

I remember these same aspen trees, trembling golden leaves blotting and becoming saturated with early morning sun at the end of summer. They cast their light down to the forest floor and stirred up clouds of blowflies between their ashen trunks and the forest was filled with warmth and life and sound. The winds came over the evergreen peaks and winnowed the ephemeral golden canopy from acquiescent branches and the pale trunks became cold without its glow. Without the chattering leaves the mountain is silent until the early morning call of the cold coyote and the yipping replies of his companions as he assembles his pack somewhere beyond the empty dark below the blood red horizon.
The howls of the coyotes reach me as I shiver walking down the road just before the sunrise, under a grey sky creeping in from the west, checking my route over the rocky road ahead before driving on toward the cathedral valley.  Trickling streams of snow melt water have frozen across the road overnight and the tire packed snow on the slopes crunches under me as I walk down the road. Satisfied that I’ll be able to continue, I return to the warmth of my car and follow my planed path over the bowling ball sized rocks. The road turns left toward the valley and as I descend the junipers reemerge and the road starts to become sandy. Through a clearing I suddenly see the valley; a break in the clouds to the east lets the morning light through which comes to rest on the green juniper, pale sagebrush and the sinuous red folds of the cathedral spires standing isolated in the middle of the valley.
On the valley floor the locks of needle-and-thread grass etch concentric circles in the sand as their blades yield to the shifting wind that brings the clouds back. The clouds darken the temples of rock one at a time, first the temple of the moon, then the temple of the sun as the moon reemerges from the shade. The cold is descending from the mountains into the valley where it will follow the sandy bottom to the creeks in the canyons and the last glow of fall along their banks.

No comments:

Post a Comment