Suddenly, I was awake. I floundered for a moment in the muddled gap between vanishing dream and dark bedroom. Something had awakened me, something unusual. What was it ?
I rolled over and listened. There was music, an energetic, celebratory song, a march or a dance. I heard rough men's voices, singing in unison. I could not make out the words or even the language of the song. Someone was playing an accordion. The music was joyful, boisterous and unpolished.
I looked at the clock. It was 2:20 a.m. I slipped out of bed, tiptoed down the front stairs and went out onto the front porch. The night was frosty and windless, and the boards under my bare feet were cold, and gritty with ice and sand.
Across the street, three houses down, five or six men were gathered on a verandah. Shadowy, tall, clad in long, dark overcoats, they were singing. They moved with the music, almost dancing. The pleated, black lung emptied and filled, emptied and filled.
I watched and listened. When the song ended, the men filed into the house and the silence of the night resumed. I stared at the empty verandah. The New Year was 26 and a half hours old.
Into what would I wake next ?
The eye-catching, hobnailed red of rosamultiflora hips. They punctuate the winter thickets.
These surprisingly blue, white-whisked seeds. Why blue ? Why not ?
Five gold rings, says the song.
Ring aroung the rosie, says another.
When there were no depths
I was brought forth,
when there were no springs
abounding with water.
What's your name, blue girl ?
I followed the map to a part of the sanctuary that I'd never visited, a small parcel of land, with a stream and a pond and a few looping trails.
The pond was small, and partially iced over. It had a tiny island, eccentrically placed, from which three birch trees arched. The banks of the pond had been cleared and landscaped. There were scattered benches and a few small footbridges over the snaking stream.
It was a garden in the woods. Alone, I followed the call of the water toward some tall bushes.
I stood in the mud and ice, craning my neck to better see the curled
and rayed undersides of big, strange pods.
Some were face down in the dark water. Tiny yellow bugs skittered over them and over the water.
Further around the pond there were other bushes and other pods, some upright
and all wearing tattered sheathes and shawls.
There were stands of ferns --
dark brown closely knobbed sticks --
and one beautiful yellow-green cedar like a flame in the dun woods. Here, in this garden, in this little paradise, one could almost recite the farthest reaches of the Nicene Creed -- light years beyond God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God -- with unquestioning conviction --
et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum !
Recite it with all the spes, the blind hope, of the denuded aster,
with all the robust, succulent faith of the rhododendron buds,
and all the vigilant, early-to-rise enthusiasm of the skunk cabbage as it knifes up through ice toward a distant sun.