Swoosh, rattle, clang, rattle, swoosh.
Winter wind, caustic in its chill sends out tendrils of its approach early on. Her voice is harsh with no room for affront; a voice to be obeyed. Trees send sap to their roots and their foliage gasp in strangled splendor. Leaves fall to an earth still holding firm autumn’s warmth so that seeds and burrowing creatures might find providence in her darkened soil.
Animal pelts pale from brown, gray or black to white to mimic the landscape of impending snow. Appetites change that sustenance be suckled in deep sleeps of hibernation. Winter’s voice wails to winged creatures, Fly here; fly there. Migrate, be gone. And snakes, turtles and frogs, heed to bury themselves in mud or sink to the bottom of creeks and rivers to wait in dominancy for spring’s thaw.
Winter wind, a piercing siren howling from the lungs of a dispassionate entity void of compassion yet stark with beauty. A force, indifferent, accidental but certain; and, at times cruel as it swings shut a gate in an untended but engaged meadow.
Swoosh, rattle, clang, rattle, swoosh.
In a field sprinkled with the first dusting of snow, two horses stand on either side of the slammed gate. One is blind, lead by the tinkling bell tied to the halter of the other. The sighted horse stands on the outside and looks at his buddy. Then, with a slight turn, he glances back at the warm refuge of the opened barn.
In the barn, there is safety with the rich smell of hay stored in the loft over their stalls and of oats stocked in metal buckets. In one room, their master has put up glass jars of apples and pears preserved from the tree orchard across the road and vegetables from gardens that now lays barren and lifeless.
In the barn other animals, stand defenseless as he and his charge, but are warmed by the other’s heat and protected by the walls of the barn from the season of bitter winter winds and fallow fields.
He then nuzzles the sightless horse, their muzzles touching through the closed gate. Whispered breaths from one to the other, giving warmth and familiarity into the heart of the other – exhaling, their breaths dissipate into crystallized vapors. The sighted horse shakes its head. The harness bell jingles, bringing assurance into the soul of the other.
Their master and family are away, leaving the barn opened for the trusted leisure of the two horses. The snow continues to fall and build. The icy frosting now a heavy layer upon the meadow and surrounding landscape – the drifts, swept by the wind, soon to blanket any juts into unreadable, ghostly mounds. Their master would be delayed, battling his own journey home.
Late the following day, just as the gray of the sky surrenders to the darker purple tones of dusk and the sun pulls its stingy heat behind itself into the black hole of night, their master returns.
In the barn, he inspects his livestock. When he comes to the opened stall of the sighted horse and his charge, he sees each standing head to tail in sleepy contentment. He enters and becomes alarmed; the sighted horse appears lame with deep cuts and bruises on his fetlocks and gaskins. Moving closer, he finds hooves chipped with angular divots.
“What the heck?” He looks around the stall for reasons, but reasons are not forthcoming. Sighing in resignation, he proceeds to tend the wounds and file the broken hooves smooth.
Leaving the barn, he passes the gate, now hidden beneath a six-foot bank of snow along the fence line. Come spring, when thaw bares the broken gate, he will have forgotten about the cuts and bruises on the sighted horse; and consider the damaged gate but a winter mystery.
In winter, raging rivers churn to a sluggish flow, waterfalls freeze mid-air, and all of nature is compelled to slow down. It is but one season, a time for mulling, regrouping, reflection and dormancy. Winter compels life to break its tread and enjoy the fruit of autumn’s harvest - the preserves of abundant orchards and fertile fields.
Yet, she does one last thing as well; allows all living creatures to draw from their hearts the good and heroic preserved there. Dormant until as the purpose of a tinkling bell outweighs the sound of: Swoosh, rattle, clang, rattle, swoosh.
A winter’s sound captured in stoic winds and carried up to a listening and watching God.
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