Lost--every step is an ordeal as I slog through an endless winter wilderness behind a team of reindeer hitched to a cargo sled. Just ahead, a Snow Sheep ram surrounded by several ewes raises its nose into the wind to assess the unfamiliar scents of the two and four-legged intruders. This pristine realm is his domain. In defiance, he scrapes the snow covered ground, snorts, and lowers his massive horns. The ribbed spirals of weaponry glisten in the brilliant morning light.
Unexpectedly, he turns to match our direction of travel and beckons. I hesitate briefly and accept his invitation. Is he real or an illusion created by the interplay of shadow and light? Is he merely movement of wind in the pines? My desire for safe conveyance out of the wilderness trumps reason. I commit to the iffy lifeline. What do I have to lose? With the magnificent animal to guide me, I trudge through knee-deep snows of open-canopy Taiga conifer forests. A team of broad-hoofed reindeer pulls my sled weighed down by only the meager remnants of life-sustaining necessities. The melodious timbre of the lead animal's bells reassures the skittish team and elevates my attitude about survival. I'm at the terminus of a month-long photographic expedition into virgin wilderness.
We turn downstream at a gelid woodland creek. It oozes lazy floes of ice freed from winter bondage by warm, diurnal southerly breezes. The ram pauses on the trail ahead and vanishes in an ethereal veil of smoke. I come to an anxious halt and cry out, “why now, why dost thou forsake me? Where is the path for deliverance from the cold embrace of another winter night?" I am lost. Panic stirs in my gut as I try to understand the woeful chorus of a nearby wolf pack.
The smoke ahead persists for several minutes, then lifts. It has a familiar pine aroma, which stirs memories of long winter days sprawled next to a warm hearth and logs ablaze. It hints of civilization. A few steps down the trail I catch sight of a cabin. White smoke rises from a leaning stove pipe on the snow covered roof. I am saved.
I awaken from my winter dreams to the morning song of a robin--cheer up, cheer up, cheer up, chee, chee, chee. Its brethren are busy bounding across my backyard lawn and throwing mulch every-which-way but where it belongs, searching for food. I itch to scatter them. Our vocal friend sits erect in a pear tree, warm orange chest towards the sun, beak tilted up, surveying the yard, pecking at fruit, and belting out joyous tunes. A quick stretch and I’m ready for a sojourn on the Llano Estacado with my canine buddy, Mr Cooper.
© Ilija Lukić 2012
|Winter Dreams (Mr Cooper)|
|Cheer Up, Cheer Up, Cheer Up...Chee, Chee, Chee (American Robin)|