It’s that time of year when I’m away from my writing desk to spend time with family out west. I had hopes to scratch a few lines between the happy helter-skelter of being with loved ones. I made a promise to my muse I wouldn’t desert her (see November’s article, A Writer Comes Home to His Beloved Muse).
Presents scattered on the floor like flotsam, bellies full, and kids down for the night, instead of quiet conversation, clutching mugs of hot beverages on a cold winter night, the adults had their eyes glued on smart-phones. I too browsed the cacophony of apps and media distraction. No wonder I can’t think creatively. I tried reading, but the oversized television screen on mute kept drawing my eye.
I stared at the Christmas tree in lazy thought, and shook my head. Peace of mind in the monochromatic world of all things life oriented can be elusive. Our heads are too often pointed downward in the bustling crowd. Even those who live in remote places are as burdened as city dwellers from the incessant distraction of a connected society. I needed to find some quiet – a place of reticence to air out the brain.
I set the book aside, closed my eyes, and imagined a small town, where new fallen snow muffled my footsteps, the only sound that of a hushed breeze though barren branches – and the occasional air pump of holiday yard blimps. I thought of a cardinal balanced on snow-laden boughs, its scarlet feathers a singular lighthouse in a sea of white, and a lantern post, its warm yellow light a beacon against a colorless palette.
The streets of the small town were deserted, and I marveled at the twinkle of holiday decorations that festooned houses. As if waiting for someone to notice, a lone white bulb was tucked inside a riot of colored lights. Like the cardinal, and the lantern, it impressed upon me the serenity of a simple light in an ostentatious environment. It’s where I needed to get my head at if I had a shot at writing anything.
I turned, and spotted lighted candy canes on the edge of thick forest. I trudged away from the brashness of holiday décor. Somehow, my whimsical town had disappeared, and I was on a deserted road in a thick forest. I shuffled my foot in the snow to find what powered this odd display, until my eyes revealed a single set of footprints leading into the woods.
A familiar voice that sounded suspiciously like my muse, spoke inside my head. “Why don’t you follow the tracks?”
“It’s dark in there,” I whispered.
“Let the stars light the way.”
This was silly – me – letting my inspirational muse suggest trekking the woods at night. Sounded like the start of a nightmare, even if it was just an imaginary walk. What the heck. Maybe my brain will slow down enough to focus.
Absent the skittering of creatures during warmer months, the only sound was that of my footsteps squeaking in the snow. It took a moment for the eyes to adjust to a place untouched by disquietude. Before I knew it, I had followed the tracks deep into the forest.
I gazed upward at an infinite stellar canopy. First thought that came to mind was how much I’d love to find such a place, maybe share it with my grandsons. The tracks rounded a bend in the trail – and stopped. I studied the snow-covered ground in the starlight, puzzled. It was as if the trailblazer had been clutched from above.
“Who made these tracks?”
“You did,” the muse giggled.
I opened my eyes to find everyone else had gone to bed, the place darkened except for the Christmas tree lights. I stretched with a smile, my head finally free of the noise.
Then it caught my eye. Through the large picture window, illuminated by an untraceable source, a solitary tree glimmered in a still forest setting. It stole my breath. What magic was this?
“Am I still dreaming?”
“It’s what you’ve been looking for,” the muse replied.
Like cardinal, the lantern, and a solitary bulb, I imagined the perfect place with the silent light of a winter night.
Happy Holidays and best wishes to all in the coming year.
All the photographs used for this article originated from Unsplash.com, a collection of photographers who offer their work for free. Unsplash continues to be an unending source of inspiration for me.
Photographs are individually annotated above. Featured in order of appearance are links to the photographer’s @unsplash page and twitter site.
Casey Horner @mischievous_penguins
Paola Chaaya @paolitta
Karthic Chandran @karthikchandrasekar
Todd Diemer @todd_diemer
Ray Hennessy @rayhennessy
Mira Kemppainen @mirakemppainen
Max Bender @maxwbender
Filip Mroz @mroz
Taylor Leopold @taylorleopold
My thanks to these talented photographers.