Thursday, December 18, 2008


"Quiet Stillness"

In response to the writing prompt, “Describe a favorite Winter memory” on Mama’s Losin it blog:

I’m not sure why this day sticks in my mind as one of my favorite winter memories. There was nothing remarkable about the day. Perhaps it was the nearly-perfect peacefulness of that afternoon that made it memorable.

        My husband and I used to walk at a local park on a walking/biking lane on a road that encircles a large lake, a five-mile walk around the circumference. Since my husband walked much faster than I, if we tried to walk together he had to mosey at, for him, a painfully slow pace, or else I became totally exhausted, trying to keep up with him. Thus, from where we parked, he started clockwise around the lake and I walked counterclockwise. I knew it would take him about 50 minutes to return to the starting point, so I walked for 25 minutes, then turned around and headed back to the parking lot. Near the end of my walk, my husband met up with me and we ended the walk together. But most of the time we were each walking alone.
        On one early winter day, it was raining when we left the house, but temperatures were falling. We dressed warmly and took our rain ponchos with us.
        The park is so large that several of the main roads were normally busy because they are the only way to travel between the surrounding suburbs. Sane people were in their warm homes watching the local NFL game on TV, resulting in almost no road traffic. Because of the rain, we seemed to be the only walkers on a normally-crowded trail.
        The clouds were low. Fog was rising from the lake. Everything was muted and grayish blue. It was beginning to get dark, even though it was barely three o’clock. Instead of being depressing, the entire world seemed to exude an achromatic hue that created a feeling of repose.
        I noticed some goose droppings in the walking lane and soon I heard Canadian geese flying overhead. They formed a V just below the clouds. When their honking faded, all was still.
        About ten minutes after I started to walk, the rain changed to huge white flakes that seemed to float in slow motion, like feathers. It was warm enough that the snow melted almost as soon as it hit my poncho or the ground. By the time I was ready to reverse direction, water dripping from my rain gear had soaked my jeans from the knees down. My toes were cold under wet sneakers and socks. Snow was beginning to accumulate on the trees that lined both sides of the road, creating a lacy pattern in the branches.

        When driving, I always listened to the radio or a book on tape. At home the TV blared at me. There was the constant din of traffic, the refrigerator cycling on and off, the furnace powering up, phones ringing, the cat meowing for her dinner. At the park the quiet stillness was intoxicating.

        I am comfortable with my aloneness. I think through problems and brainstorm solutions in my head. A retired teacher, I teach imaginary lessons, sharing my hard-earned wisdom with imaginary students. I decided this setting would make a nice scene in a novel, a time when the protagonist would think through an issue and have an “ahah” moment in the quietude of the setting. I wrote a scene in my head, as I often do when I walk.
        Soon I heard footsteps behind me. I recognized my husband from the pattern of his paces. In the car, we removed our wet gear and turned on the heater for a slow drive home in the accumulating snow. The exercise had both invigorated and exhausted us. I was ready to spend the rest of the day reading a good book while wrapped in a warm sweater, the perfect ending of a perfectly peaceful afternoon.

(Photos and story ©2008, C.J. Peiffer)

That was probably more than a decade ago. Finally, I wrote the scene, not as fiction, but as a favorite winter memory.

See my post
“The Joys of Winter” an equally memorable event, although for entirely different reasons.

Another writing prompt was "What's the best gift you've ever given?" See my post "Harley" for one of the best presents I made and gave.

"Winter Lace" (detail)      


John said...

Cool blog.
Very unique and beautiful pictures.

Please visit:

Keep blogging.
Happy holidays.

J Cosmo Newbery said...

Wow! That sounds lovely. Where I live it never snows so there is something exotic about places that do.

Jenners said...

Visiting from MamaKat's writers workshop posts...

This was lovely and lyrical and beautiful and I feel like I was taken right there. I know about that type of magical stillness you speak of and you captured it so well. Bravo!

CJ said...

I thank everyone for the kind comments.

In response to John,
The photo at the top was not taken on that day. About a year ago, on the way home from my mother's I was passing that very lake just before dark. The fog was lifting from the lake and looked so beautiful and eerie that I just had to stop to take photographs. The light was fading very quickly, so I had to slow the camera speed. WIthout a tripod, I leaned against a pole to keep the camera from moving. Even at that, the results were a little blurry ---but I think the photo I chose captured the mood of the day I wrote about for this "assignment."

J Cosmo Newbery said...

I hope you have a very merry Christmas, that Santa brings you everything you deserve and that it doesn’t take too long to work off the effects of Christmas dinner.

Thank you for being part of what has been a fascinating year for me.