Sunday, December 5, 2010
A Tiny Slice of Pie
or Seizing the Moment
If summer were pie (bear with me here) it would be a large one, made with the season's abundance, and served by a generous hand. You would fill your plate and enjoy every bite, but by the time you'd reached the end of the slice you might not be paying quite as much attention as you did for that first glorious taste. When the same generous hand offered you another overflowing serving, you would keep eating gamely, because it's so delicious, and you really do like pie. But once you had emptied your plate again, you might just be ready to be done with pie for a while.
If winter were pie, it would be a small one, made with rare and expensive ingredients. It would be served by someone counting both cost and calories, a tiny sliver of pie dwarfed by a landscape of a plate. You would take small bites of the enjoyment offered you and pause between each bite, drinking a sip of coffee perhaps, or admiring the table setting, so that you could stretch out the enjoyment as long as possible. Each bite would be its own memory.
I know that technically winter hasn't arrived yet, but last week's cold snap finally discouraged the Wild Thing autumn sage from blooming any more, and in my book, that makes it winter. In the mornings the cold drives me inside before I've finished my coffee on the patio (besides which, it's darkish out), and since my garden is shaded in the afternoon, it's too chilly to spend much time there after work (besides which, it's darkish out). So instead of the leisurely hours of reading or moseying or crossword-puzzle solving or writing or observing or photographing, there are only tiny slivers of time to enjoy outside and try to make the most of. (As, indeed, is the case for most of us in the northern hemisphere about now.)
Weekends are another matter, and on sunny mornings, the garden is still a fine place to drink a cup of tea and meander around the circle path to see what's changed during the week. As I was admiring the rumpled-fabric texture of the dried sand cherries and thinking how glad I was not to have to iron them, I was reminded that December's beauty is fragile and evanescent in any case—that no matter how much time is available for its enjoyment, the enjoyments themselves are short-lived and precious. As my camera hand neared the cherries, it brushed one of the ragged leaves, which went tumbling; it nudged a branch and sent a whole flock of leaves fluttering to the ground. I cupped a cherry in my hand, and its flesh crumbled, leaving only the bare seed dangling from the stem. The whole experience had a certain "oops" factor to it; I didn't really mean to hasten the process of winter. On the other hand, each of those moments had its own tiny, individual piquancy that has caught, separately, in memory. I am grateful to have been out at the right time to see (er, make) those leaves fall.
That's the real problem I have with winter: opportunity. In summer, with all those outdoor hours stretching ahead, the odds of experiencing something amazing or intriguing or entertaining or breath-taking are fairly high. In winter, if you're not there when they're handing out the pie, you're just not going to get any. So you hold your plate out hopefully every chance you get, and presumably, at some point, it will be filled.
With a tiny slice of wonder that you had better savor, one intense bite at a time.