An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of December 15, 2013
Issued from the Frio Canyon Nature Education Center
in the valley of the Dry Frio River in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas,
on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA

CLARITY

During recent winters in Mexico the prodigious sunlight, heat, fresh fruit, etc. were profoundly appreciated, but I did miss a certain feeling that only temperate-zone winter weather can provide. I missed the feeling of cold, sunny mornings like some experienced here this week.

On such crystal-clear mornings the sun glare is almost violent. You feel it on the sunny side of your face while iciness numbs the shadow side. The landscape similarly lies frozen in an all-or-nothing mood; trees, rocks and cliffs etched with shining gloss on their sunny sides and inky blackness on the other, with all moderation hard to see through the glare. Such visual extremism puts you on edge and makes the landscape feel all cockeyed.

You breathe in and you're reminded that inside your chest there's wet, sensitive tissue. Lungs are hot and pink, the opposite of the air's cold dryness, and when the two meet there's visceral shock and then you exhale white steam that curls upward into intensely blue, totally unconcerned sky. Primary colors and primary sensations mingle, and soon your toes and fingers start hurting from the cold, and you remember that pain is a primary feeling, too.

On such mornings I like riding the bike up the canyon. I like the sound cold gravel makes beneath the tires, decisively cracking, twanging and spinning into the grass. Gravel on cold, sunny mornings has an attitude, but it's OK, like everything else in the landscape, like the Ravens croaking from the canyon's walls, their calls exquisitely wild and otherworldly.

One reason I like all this is because something in me craves clarity, and there's nothing as clear as cold, crystalline, sunny mornings. Clutter and distractions have always disrupted my life, confused me and sometimes defeated me, but always, as soon as I could get a clear view of things, things went better. The Raven's hollow croak echoing off naked rock means a lot to me.

On a cold, sunny morning, leaving the world of rich food, mixed-up people, and the crazy things you do for society's sake, riding a bike up through the canyon is a meditation on clarity. When you look around and see rocks, trees, grassy fields, the sky, red and wrinkly hands on bicycle handlebars, steam gushing from hot, pink lungs, all visible through eyes watery from the cold you see that there's a way of dealing with all the excesses and craziness if it gets too bad.

Before long the air warms, and that feels good, as does the moistness that creeps into the air, sunlight's softening glare, and maybe the spirit rises with the song of a bird.

But that's a song for singing another time. Facebook Icon