A snowy Rabbit Lane
In arid Utah we are grateful for snows that persist through March, April, and sometimes even into May. I remember a May 1993 snowstorm that dropped a full three feet of new snow on the streets and yards of Salt Lake City, the year after I returned from being a Fulbright Scholar in Portugal to live with my grandmother, Dora. These Spring snows add high-mountain snow pack that continues to slowly percolate thousands of feet through fractured bedrock, into valley aluvia, recharging the aquifers that allow us to turn the desert into a rose. So, even though I post this poem at the end of March, it is still snow season in Utah. I hope you enjoy the poem.
Sky lets down her snow
in slow and heavy flakes
all the long day
as if the world, everywhere,
has never known but snow:
slow and easy, flakes
in my thinning hair,
granting shy moist cool
kisses on the bulb
of my nose, on my soft
sagging cheeks, crystals resting
on lashes looking up
to a distant gentle font.
Wind does not dare to blow.
(Liberty Bell, Philadelphia, PA)
Walking in the snow on Rabbit Lane I began thinking about Christmas bells ringing from church towers all over the celebrating world. I pondered the many emotions associated with pealing church bells. Happiness in marriage. Sorrow in death. Fear in disaster. Hope that “all is well”. The Liberty Bell rang in joyful celebration of America’s independence. I composed this song about church bells at Christmastime, attempting to embrace all of these emotions, especially excitement at the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the World. Here is the sheet music for you to enjoy: Church Bells.
–Wherever you live, find your Rabbit Lane.–
(Photo credit: Jeanette Baker Davis)
Christmas day. A warm south wind had begun to howl in the early morning hours, the kind of wind that tears off siding and rips at shingles. A particular set of vulnerable shingles had flapped irritatingly above my bed all night long, as if under the sticks of a novice but indefatigable drummer. All day long the wind had blown, with frequent gusts that shook the house and trembled the floor under my chair. The bird feeders swung wildly on their wires, like marionettes under the hand of a demented puppeteer. We knew the pattern: the wind would blow and blow until the climactic dissonance resolved in a downpour of driving rain or sleet or snow. At 9:00 o’clock in the evening, Angie called us to where she stood by the front door opened wide to a world covered with new whiteness. The south wind had stopped, replaced by a steady northern breeze bringing the snow from over the lake. Brian, home from his first semester of college, announced happily that he was going for a walk. He bounded away with enthusiasm. Continue reading
–Rabbit Lane is a short nothing of a dirt road in Erda, USA.–
The air was crisp but warmer than a typical January day. The sky hung gray, and pockets of darker clouds dropped round, soft pellets of dry snow. Shades of orange accented the western mountaintops. Feathers of unseen House Swallows rustled from inside Wild Rose and Willow bushes. The scene made for an idyllic late Sunday afternoon walk on Rabbit Lane. Idyllic and peaceful . . . except for Hannah (3) riding her big-wheel tricycle behind me. The wide, hollow, pink plastic wheels ground over the disintegrating asphalt, radiating into the peacefulness the racket of an ore crusher. I couldn’t hear my wife talk or myself think. Continue reading
–I need the light on to keep my eyes warm. (Caleb-3)—
–I need the light on to go to sleep because I can’t see. (Hannah-3)—
Early one morning I notice a light in the Weyland wheat field next to Rabbit Lane. The soft circle of lantern light bobs around over the newly-sprouted wheat, magically as if without a master, seemingly unattached to a farmer. The night sky begins to lighten, and I can see the dim outlines of a man checking the sprinkler heads on a wheel line.
Ron starts his big John Deere early, headlights blaring, before I can see its trademark green and yellow. The tractor pulls behind a homemade harrow: creosoted rail beams loosely chained together with railroad spikes pounded through. The harrow tears at the rooted wheat chaff, spewing up dust that creeps over Rabbit Lane like a heavy, brown fog. Continue reading
Paving Rabbit Lane changed the nature of the country road so totally and quickly that my mind and emotions struggled to adjust. Gone were the gravel, hard-pack dirt, and potholes. In their place lay milled asphalt, the detritus of some other road mixed with new oil and laid roughly to rest on Rabbit Lane. Some chunks still showed patches of yellow striping, so disjointed as to be of no use to the traveler, pointing in no direction and every direction. As I saw it, the County had strangled the life out of Rabbit Lane. I, also, found it harder to breath. This poem portrays my early perspectives of this black-oil change. (See the Chapter 38: Black-Oil Pavement post on the Rabbit Lane: Memoir page of this blog for a related discussion.)
It happened sooner than I expected.
ROAD CLOSED barricades appeared at either end.
They had paved Rabbit Lane.
They had paved Rabbit Lane with roto-mill from some other road’s temporary demise,
mixed the black rubbish with new oil
and plastered it flat upon the hard, living earth.
Now, after rain, Rabbit Lane reveals nothing,
no tracks of the earthworm pushing perilously slowly across the road,
no paw or claw prints of raccoons or pheasants.
No more wet pot holes for the children to ride their bicycles through with a whoop.
Instead, oil leaches invisibly into the ditch
to water cattle and crops some place too far away for accountability.
Pink-flowered milkweed and wispy willow bush cling to the asphalt fringe.
They transformed Rabbit Lane from a dirt farm road with country appeal
to another icon of the American Nowhere, with all the charm of a parking lot.
Rabbit Lane, of course, neither knows nor cares about the change.
But I know, and I am saddened.
–Be kind. Always.–
Turning from north to south at the half-way point on my Rabbit Lane walk, I look southeast toward the mountain peaks still sleeping under the early-morning sky. A star rises from behind a peak and continues in its slow journey toward zenith.
To the east of where I walk, strings of lights move slowly in the distance, white lights crawling forward, red lights inching away, two parallel lines of progress making their way to and from the offices and factories and stores of wares. They send forth a collective engine-and-tire hum to hover over the fields with the fog. A Union Pacific train’s whistle flows out gently over the valley from its tracks on Lake Bonneville’s fossil bank. In the west, the lighthouse, itself out of sight, emits soft sweeping beams: white-green-white-green. The beams penetrate Winter’s ice-crystal air to trace slow arcs across the gray belly of the sky, a ceiling above me, above Rabbit Lane. The universe of stars—the heavens—are out there, somewhere farther above, hanging mostly hidden by clouds. My fingers, toes, ears, and nose ache from the crystalline cold. Continue reading