The grasslands of the desert overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
[This was written in the season of “farch.”]
It’s hard to estimate just how long it’s been since the world outside my door offered much to see. Snow can be gorgeous, but we’ve had less than enough to create the alabaster robes that make the Plains look regal. Ever since the first killing frost, the country has been almost entirely tint-less.
Okay, the color is not gone, really, but, it gives meaning to the word lackluster. It’s a good deal less than inspiring. Shoot, inspiring is a stretch. From December through late March, the world I live in is dull, plain, uninteresting, dreary, colorless—all of those. And, this winter, the dawn’s early light—always a blessing—has been rare. On Saturdays, more often than not, it’s been cloudy.
Photography is all about light. Manure becomes a blessing in the golden joy of sunrise; but spot a perfect composition in heavy clouds and no matter how you fine tune a digital SLR, what you’ve got is almost unfailingly uninteresting. Fogs cast a spell, but a prairie winter has few mists worth noting.
We’re thick into the season of “farch,” as some people call it, a coinage of February/March, when the snow that remains is flat out dingy. Last week’s sudden blizzard left long and heavy drifts asleep in the ditches, but, they look, a week later, like dead sheep, as Jim Heynen once wrote, gray lifeless masses that will stay around far too long.
If I made my living as a photographer who didn’t roam, I’d be starving. My winter shots hardly merit the space they take up on my hard drive. I could delete the whole bunch and not miss a thing.
Saturday a storm was forecast, so I assumed there would be no dawn. But when I stepped outside early, the clouds were broken enough out east to allow a wearied sun at least a bit of stage time, so I took off and found some old cottonwoods out east of town, some fallen. I thought I had some fine shots until I got them up on the screen. Nothing to write home about. Maybe it’s my fault. There’s a learning curve with my high-tech gear, and I’m too old for new tricks and too blasted male to take time to read the instructions.
Dawns last ten minutes, maybe fifteen, before the patina fades. I need to remind myself that this is the season of farch—nothing striking anywhere. Saturday my wife brought home a clutch of tulips from Walmart that just about took my breath way. It’ll be a while. I’ll just have to wait.
The earth rests, the fertile, slumbering soil beneath us hibernating. It’ll have toil enough in a month or so, when farmers start to work it once again.
It’s farch and it’s lent and it’s too cold to be spring, even though today, officially, is spring solstice. In South Dakota, people are staring out their windows at 18 inches of snow, which is enough to prompt me to use the old Midwestern adage—hey, things could be worse.
There will come a moment, a time, a succession of months, in fact, when the hills out west are as clothed with gladness as the ones David saw, rejoicing and singing. There will come a time when the grasslands overflow.
Patience is a virtue. Hope is a thing with feathers. Faith is the sure knowledge of things hoped for. I better be ready. I got time now to read instructions. The emeralds will return, refreshingly. I know it. I can hear the promise in David’s song.