Friday, December 07, 2007

Simplicity: Shelter

(First in a series of vignettes exploring the basic needs of human life.)

Frost mist poured into the valley during the night. In the darkness, sleet sizzled in wave after wave. It illuminated the ground, especially the low places. But as we slept, the southern winds reached north, and the ice melted into rain.

I waited for dawn in the forest that morning, my breaths puffs of fog. Drops pattered on the fallen leaves. A squirrel rummaged in the glistening colors without a sound.

When the cold chewed through the length of my bones, I rose on stiff legs and began to walk the trails. A flock of turkeys pushed ahead. Their necks swayed as they ran.

And still the rain came.

I couldn't feel the wet anymore, or the cemented clothes. Just weight. My strides straining to lift my feet off the ground.

Up the slope.


The exertion became embers, became heat, became steam billowing up my back. Sharp breaths turned raspy. Raw cold cracked my throat.

The ground leveled, and my pace quickened along the cabin walkway stones. Inside, I unzipped the hours of rain as lazy flames rolled in the woodstove. A tinge of bitter smoke spiced the air.

The children played while I rested. A warm leg, then a soft hand nestled close under the blanket. Outside the window, the crisp light shined grey.

I touched the paneled wall. It was dry and warmed by the fire.

So different. Here versus there. Only inches apart.

Nothing but wood frame.

Nails. A wall.

How easily we create worlds.

And outside realities fall.


mermaid said...

How easily you create words, and outside my realities fall. You have a gift, Jason. By now you must know this. Not only words, but wisdom glowing through and around them.

SzélsőFa said...

A very thick piece, I liked it.
I will patiently wait for the next in the series, too!

SzélsőFa said...

Jason, my 10 rounds of macro shots contest has ended and you are invited to come and collect your virtual award!!

Bernita said...

So true, Jason.
And so lovely.

Vesper said...

Wonderful, Jason. Description, feelings, truths - all in beautiful words.

Anonymous said...

Your words stir my imagination. They draw me into silence and stillness. :)

Sarah Hina said...

Sometimes civilization does seem like little more than a matchstick construction. Especially in the winter.

Sublimely written, Jason. I felt the struggle, and the calm.

Aine said...

"Here versus there. Only inches apart."

So true in many ways.

"How easily we create worlds."

Yes, we have such power over our environment. And what we do with our space has such power over our emotions and well-being. We truly are creators of our destiny.

Thanks for being my shelter when I need it!

Chris Eldin said...

I can't read this for any literary qualities because Survivorman turns me on.


This 'series of vignettes' is a prose poem, I think. That's how it feels to me, that's how I read it.

At least, Geoffrey Hill called his prose poems in Mercian Hymns 'versets of rhythmical prose' and that's certainly what's happening here.

By the way, rather than risk speaking out of turn, do you ever invite comment of a technical nature or just murmurs of praise?

Good to have found your blog. I shall keep watching.

Anonymous said...

Mermaid, you are also a purveyor of wisdom, one of my favorite things about your writing. Thank you for the kind words!

Szelsofa, when I write something like this, I really feel how much flexibility dialog brings to writing. Getting the pacing right with something like this is a struggle for me. And thanks for the recognition on your blog! The contests were great fun.

Bernita, thanks, my friend.

Vesper, I'm glad you enjoyed the walk in the snow.

Liz, you're always invited. Thank you for the visit!

Sarah, that's another angle to this. There really is very little protecting us from exposure. Yet, shelters, like homes, seem so immovable to us.

Aine, thanks for being the one next to me to share this moment, and all the other moments that don't get preserved in a piece of writing. :)

Church Lady, he's definitely in better shape than Grizzly Adams. Adams is more of a hunker-down-in-a-cave-for-the-winter kind of guy.

Jane, welcome! Yes, a vignette like this is definitely intended to walk the line between prose and poetry. A little meter and rhyme tied it up at the end. Thank you for mentioning Geoffrey Hill! I will check out his writing. As for constructive comments/critiques, yes, always welcome! This community shines the brightest when we all pitch in to help each other.

virtual nexus said...

Jason - Evocative.

The line that jumped out most powerfully for me was
'The exertion became embers....'

This is an arbitrary comment, as I'm not a poet, but I'd look at the number of times you use 'the' in the first para - and in one or two spots would read out loud to hear the sound flow 'it illuminated the ground' is one.

Any help?

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

That's lovely! Unzipped the hours of rain has to be my favorite line! I may unintentionally end of stealing it, it is so good!

Jaye Wells said...

I liked this one. Evocative, as Julie said, is also a great way to describe your writing in general. Can't wait to see what else you do with this theme.

Anonymous said...

Julie, thanks for the suggestions! I have to admit struggling with the flow of this one under time pressure. I'm not suprised at all if there are rough spots. One drawback of my posting schedule is that material has to get out on time (which is good training on the other hand). When I go back and read old posts, I see all sorts of edits I'd like to make. Of course, that's the writer's eternal curse.

Ello, borrow it for something good! I liked the economy of that sentence.

Jaye, much appreciated. :) This little series is going to be fun for me. I want to make sure I take some risks too though. Not too comfortable. (Okay, that's weird. My word verfication is "jayhhi.")

Steve H said...

the last two lines pull the whole piece together wonderfully!

Chris Eldin said...


This morning, Survivorman is in the middle of an ocean. I hope he makes it.

Vixen said...

Those are the outside realities of fall and one of the reasons it is my favorite season. Beautiful writing as always!

virtual nexus said...

Yes,I wondered if time pressure was the issue rather than perception!
- Just done a pick of the week on mine with a few interesting blogs/posts and an amazing photo morph video if you're passing through. (VJ)

WH said...

Great theme, pic, and prose, Jason.

raine said...

This was striking, and very evocative.

How easily we create worlds.
And outside realities fall.

Love these lines, and the implications. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Hotwire, thanks for the visit and kind words. Tying this one up at the end was especially important given the meaning.

Church Lady, the middle of the ocean probably cuts down on the foul things he eats. That would make it more tolerable for me to watch.

Vixen, yes, fall is the most potent season. The weird thing is that every season I'm in is my favorite. I guess I do look forward to fall the most.

Julie, I don't mean to say that more revisions are sure to eliminate problems. ;) I still make plenty of mistakes. I do think, though, that blogs are less polished writing, if for no other reason than you don't have the benefit of the passage of time. On the other hand, the amount of creativity necessary for a blog is a wonderful thing. I'd rather have that than write one perfect poem every six months.

Billy, thanks. This is one that I lived. Aine makes an appearance too.

Raine, much appreciated. There are all kinds of shelter, I suppose.