Monday, February 22, 2010

Knapsack 3-4

Notes From My Knapsack 3-4-10

Jeff Gill


Looking Deeply Into the Landscape Around Us




With the last of the leaves off of the trees, these remaining snows put a cloak on the landscape that reveals as much as it covers.


Over the next few weeks, we will be able to see as far into the forests and woodlots as we can at any point in the year, and these late winter, early spring snowfalls actually highlight and trace lines that are invisible under the summer canopy and fall leaf piles.


It might be as simple as some logs on a hillside, lying perpendicular to the standing trunks all around, putting up an accidental grid next to a road you drive all year unawares. It could be a house, a barn, or even an abandoned shed far away from your usual paths that each year about this time you say to yourself, "Oh, right, I'd forgotten that was back there."


The relationship of one ridge or rill to the next valley, and how the drive from the main road curls up to the distant home, all are visible and open now in ways that in just a few weeks will only make sense if you have business that takes you around that turn, and on into the opaque woods, one bend at a time.


The crusted thawed and refrozen snow gives you a chance to check out tracks that may fill too quickly for most to wander along in earlier winter. Whether a rabbit or a deer, or that dratted neighbor dog, you can trudge (if your shoes are up to the task, proof against the water that's everywhere under the white), and track, like Boone or Kenton, from steady trot to sudden leap, around tree trunks and ghosting through or over fences until you find the den, the hole, the hutch.


Scout Troop 65 went out on a Sunday after the height of our snowy season, in collaboration with the Granville Volunteer Fire Department, and dug out fire hydrants all around the core of the village and out along some of the side streets. A few good Scouts had already dug out the hydrants near their homes and around their neighborhoods. We spent a good, clear, refreshing afternoon chipping and shoveling, with a few of us adults judiciously using a powerblower for the deeply plowed under spots.


Stopping at spot by spot to dig and delve for that hidden chunk of blue and white metal, we had a chance to look around. Each place was familiar, but to actually pause instead of driving by at 35 mph (or 25 in the strict enforcement zones, natch), to not even be walking but to be stationary for a time, glancing around. You saw the houses and their relationships, the slopes and their outlines in ways that are fresh and new.


Now when I drive by, at a decent clip, my mind on a shopping list, I still see those blocks and neighborhoods and streets a bit more clearly, even seeing the parts I can't see in memory: where a brick patio picks up the sun to melt the snow, around a charming statue I didn't even know was there.


And I can see, even when I only hear them, the Carolina Chickadees and Eastern Bluebirds and brilliant Cardinals, their perches of forsythia and lilac and honeysuckle now fixed, leafless but all the more solid, firmly located in my mind's eye.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at, or follow Knapsack

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