I arrive home from a morning at the office to find the sheet of ice that covered half the driveway melting apace. Small rivulets cascade down beneath the bubble-laced crystal baked by the high afternoon sun. I deposit my satchel inside the house and reappear with a dustpan and brush.
Last night the snow plow deposited mounds of dry rock salt in the middle of the street. From mound to mound I move, sweeping up the excess salt crystals. Soon the dustpan is full. I shower the salt over the sheet of ice as I ascend the driveway to the back porch.
My wife laughs when I reappear in the kitchen. “Now that’s what I call recycling!” she says.
“There’s no ice melt to be found in any of the local hardware stores,” I tell her. “And anyway, this is New England. ‘Use it up, wear it out; make it do, or do without.'”
The dog follows me out the back door and pauses to watch as I begin to chip away at the ice shoulder. She moves up the driveway to the garage, turns her head to the wind and lifts her nose.
The wind feels warm on my face. I undo the top button of my flannel shirt and push the woolen cap back on my head. Drops from the eaves of the roof spatter onto the snow. The ice snaps readily beneath the blade of the chipper.
I chip the upper section then pause for a breather. The dog lifts her front paw and sniffs the air. The sun is pleasant on my face.
Another blast of arctic air is coming early next week, followed by more snow. I push that thought to the back of my mind and take a deep cleansing breath.
Today there’s something stirring in the air. The dog senses it; I do too.
“Winter window” 2014 © Brian T. Maurer
Morning sunlight filters through the wispy branches of our neighbor’s tall pines, striking columns of icicles hanging from the eaves of our house. Each gust of aeolian energy stirs the branches, fine apertures that direct bursts of light through the suspended ice. Up and down each irregular column photons dance, sparkling sapphire notes along frozen musical staffs. The only sound emitted is the wind in the towering pines: Pan playing his auroral pipes.
“Aeolian icicles” 2014 © Brian T. Maurer
We awoke to a clear morning.
The thermometer read zero degrees.
No matter the temperature,
High or low,
The dog must go out.
I bundle myself in layers;
The dog seems oblivious to the cold.
Shoving snout in jaundiced snow,
She drops her trace of amber excrement,
While overhead a red bird sings:
Clear, lusty notes cut the frozen air.
Mesmerized, I pause to listen.
Momentarily, the dog ceases to strain.
Only the refrain sounds in our ears.
The red bird cannot know
That night will bring more cold and snow.
He sings for the morning only—no,
He sings for this moment only.
February 12, 2014
“Cardinalidae Warholis” 2013 © Thomas A. Doty
“Winter Crystals” 2014 © Brian T. Maurer
“Every leaf and twig was this morning covered with a sparkling ice armor; even the grasses in exposed fields were hung with innumerable diamond pendants, which jingled merrily when brushed by the foot of the traveller. It was literally the wreck of jewels and the crash of gems. It was as though some superincumbent stratum of the earth had been removed in the night, exposing to light a bed of untarnished crystals. The scene changed at every step, or as the head was inclined to the right or the left. There were the opal and sapphire and emerald and jasper and beryl and topaz and ruby.”
“Ice Armor” 2014 © Brian T. Maurer
“Such is beauty ever,—neither here nor there, now nor then,—neither in Rome nor in Athens, but wherever there is a soul to admire. If I seek her elsewhere because I do not find her at home, my search will prove a fruitless one.”
—Thoreau, Journal, January 21, 1838
As it was New Year’s Eve, my new employer told me I could close the after-hours care center early. “You probably won’t have much business,” he said. “People will be getting ready to celebrate, and I hear we might get some snow.”
I informed my medical assistant of the plan. “We’ll see how the evening unfolds,” I told him. “If it’s dead, we’ll pack it in. I suppose you have plans to celebrate?”
“I never make plans,” my medical assistant said. In some respects, he is a wise fellow. more»
My latest installment of Notes from a Healer — A New Era — is now online, newly published in the Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine.
The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine is an online journal fostering discussion about the culture of medicine, medical care, and experiences of illness. Interested readers can access a list of editorial board members and regular contributors here.
There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. —Robert Henri, The Art Spirit
This late summer Sunday is wafting to a close. Soon the white puffy clouds drifting across the blue sky will turn to dark inkblots against an azure background. Soon the light will fade; soon the insect orchestra will begin its nocturnal prelude. Soon the heat of the day will give way to the coolness of eventide. more»
Interested readers can now access my latest Art of Medicine column — Conversation at eventide — recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.
Please note that all of my previously published Humane Medicine pieces can now be accessed here.