“Public Welcome Dawn to Dusk.“
The text is nearly as minimal as the soundtrack. If I am perfectly still I can hear only a distant hollow echo from cracking ice and a few birds’ songs: one trills in just two notes, holding the second three times as long as the first; another is stridently percussive; and one, a bird I cannot see, startles me with a sustained keening chord, the sound I imagine a bird would make were it impersonating a distressed beagle.
I am the only person here, no more or less alone than I would be in the space between dusk and dawn, when there’s no sunlight anymore:
More clouds appeared until the sky went black
And now there’s
And now there’s
No sunlight anymore.
I wonder what happens when the light goes down and humans no longer are welcome here. Do robins stop fleeing to the higher branches where they cock their heads mistrustfully at intruders wearing unnatural colors? Do owls cast disapproving looks and keep the chipmunks from partying too exuberantly? What happens here at the midnight hour?
It is well below freezing. One aberrational warm day so dramatically changed the snow cover’s texture that (now I have finally invested in waterproof boots of appropriate height) I no longer loll off-kilter, sinking knee-deep without warning as I wander. My footprints leave no marks; they are as like a butterfly’s as Jim’s. . . or a moth’s.
In October, years ago, we trailed just behind our children at a butterfly museum, wandering through sun-heated air in a towering glass enclosure. An enormous black and tan moth, each wing larger than one of my hands, lit on the back of our son Noah’s shirt, horizontally striped in mustard and gray. I saw Jim’s hand swoop down and lightly touch Noah’s shoulder to show him. Stop. Look behind you. But don’t be afraid.
I hear an odd sound, like someone trying mightily to coax out a stuck rubber cork. Thinking it is a bird I might be able to digitally capture, I spring towards thorny bushes and see the sound is from a squirrel jealously gripping an acorn whose cap is askew. The squirrel is sandy in the shadow and turns red-gold as it sprints away from me into sunlight.
Don’t go, I say aloud. Don’t be scared.
I start away from the bushes and am tugged back gently: a vine looped out of the snowy surface lightly holds my right boot in place. When I am forced to pause I look around more carefully and see what I had not noticed before: sheared birch sheets reddened into modern art; bare branches arrayed like ridges on a dinosaur’s back; bark curled into a cavernous calla lily; a flat, colorful jeweled cameo where a branch had neatly been sheared off.
I tiptoe out long before pink and orange strands begin stretching across the sky and the sun turns unbearably bright.
I don’t want to overstay my welcome.