Snapshot Times, Seasonal Designs

Outside my window and over a distant hill, the sun rises… a lazy, shining eye awakening to a dark world. A splash of color flutters in a pine tree laden with flakes of snow as a red-breasted robin hops along noiselessly. Tucking its wings in closer and fluffing its feathers, as if to make the sound larger, the robin bursts into song. The snow and the sound tussle briefly as the little bird warbles out a simple melody. The song wins and, gracefully triumphant, dances around the clearing with delicate exultance.

As the song ends, the world is at rest. The earth is still sleeping under a downy blanket of snow, hiding the signs of a summer long-forgotten. The air is hushed, pierced only by the memory of the robin’s morning melody. Skeletal, claw-like fingers of thin trees stripped of emerald leaves reach ever upwards, waiting patiently for the noon sun.

The sky is in depthless twilight, freckled with stars in countless constellations, the very upper reaches of the heavens lightning in silvery swaths. The cratered moon relinquishes her watch of the sleeping world over to her sibling, finally taking her break from the never-ending vigil. Overstuffed clouds float on breezes beneath the stars, chasing each other around the celestial pictures. Their deceptively cottony figures conceal snowflakes. Like feathers, fragile and bright.

On the edges of the horizon, as the fringes of the atmosphere bow down to clasp the hands of Mother Earth, the pines stretch their ice-frosted needles upwards in a silent competition of reaching. The gentle breathing of Ouranos whisks over everything sprawling under the heavens, shaking loose crystals from frozen ledges with his chilly exhales. Every motion of the clouds forewarns a torrent of flurries before the sun once again closes his burning eye.

Across an ocean, the sun relaxes back into sleep as his sister climbs to her starry watchtower. The boiling temperatures vanish as the brightness seeps out of the sky and the ground sighs in relief. Starry warriors from ancestral lands chase creatures of myth and legend over their eternal black-velvet plains. 

 Below, a snake slides its way over parched dirt, its rasping scales the only noise in the waiting desert. Its beady, watchful eyes are mirrored in its tense winding motions as it hunts. In the dry air, the shh-shh noise of its slithering resonates over the cracked ground.

The hidden creatures in their burrows turn wary feet towards the open air, venturing cautiously out to scavenge. Even as they creep out and away from the safety of their homes, they remain coiled as wind-up toys, ready to spring back into hiding at a moment’s notice.

There are no trees for the sky to anchor itself to, so it floats and dances on the heat waves of the air. The untethered horizon rolls until distant dust storms obscure the edge of the world from sight. The cacti bristle against approaching phenomena and creatures all the same, like foolish and cowardly kings hiding in their fortified castles. Spears bristle out of the impenetrable walls, but the king’s court is lavish and golden should one have the mettle to lay siege.

Sand shifts of its own will in little dunes no taller than a field mouse, shifting and shifting with the endless whistling gusts of wind. In an infertile wasteland of baked clay and ground rock, the kingdoms of the little creatures pay no heed to the whispery wailing of their dunes. The ever-changing landscape is but another sea – waves and dunes alike roll and crash and drag things under with minds of their own.

On two ends of the world, the sun rises, the sun sets. The day is snuffed out and comes to be relit. The constellations may differ and the stories may vary, but starry warriors keep immortal watch. The world itself is still, and its creatures are but a passing disturbance, blades of grass in a boundless field of time.

Fall, winter, summer, spring. The four seasons cycle in a waltz slower than the two-person tango of the sun and moon. They hold the world in gentle hands, painting each surface with the livery of their noble house. As they pass their artwork on to the next season, the fingerprints of the previous artist remain imprinted on the changing landscape. Their signatures are written on the land.

Autumn loves to bejewel the earth with fiery gemstones in all colors. The leaves become garnets and amber and topaz, the precious stones too heavy for their branches of tiger-eye stone. Ruby apples hang heavy from their boughs. Leaves and fruits alike drop carefully to the ground, burying the dead grass of spring in mounds of sparkling fire. The sky becomes polished sapphire studded with clouds of quartz, glowing in the light of a citrine sun.

Autumn passes the world into the cold hands of Winter, and the bright warmth of Autumn’s style fades to monochrome. Winter sketches the earth in ink pen and charcoal pencil on thick white parchment. The gemstone leaves on the ground are painted over with powdery chalk snow that burns white under a sky of dove-gray clouds. The trees are traced with careful penmanship and everything is hung with watercolor icicles to refract the sourceless light that shines under the sky.

Winter lifts the world and with upraised arms and sets it upon the cupped hands of Spring. He has made the world nearly a blank canvas for Spring to decorate how she wishes. In a timeless tradition, Spring washes the earth clean in a torrent of rain storms – free of snow, free of leaves, free of the last touches of Winter’s cold grip. She pulls the sun into the stark landscape to warm the earth and breezes, cajoling the temperature to rise. She brings out her brightest acrylics and begins to paint. The dead yellow-brown grass becomes green once again, flowers of all kinds brighten the ground, and animals are brushed into existence. Even the trees find themselves with new dabs of green buds, waiting to burst into bloom. The only thing Spring cannot decide is the color of the sky. She paints it in palest robin’s egg blue. She sends rain to wash it away. She tries the intense sapphire the Autumn so dearly loved, but decides it isn’t for her either. In all her art, the sky is a different color.

Spring rests her beloved creation of life with utmost care to the hands of her brother Summer. She does not want to let go of what she has made, and the transition is slow. When Summer finally has the world all to himself, he sees what Spring has created and cannot bring himself to erase all of her hard work. He covers the acrylic of the grass with his greenest velvet, and drapes the trees in his best silk. Spring’s painted flowers are enveloped by the velvet and under the green Summer can only remember there were yellow flowers, so he sews in bouquets of new yellow lace dandelions. The ever-changing sky is recovered with Summer’s brightest blue satin, so close to Autumn’s azure sky. Summer does not detract from his sister’s work, but rather adds to it. Upon the orchard trees in neat little rows he adds fruit buttons in all shapes and sizes. He adds gemlike red apple buttons, porous spherical orange buttons, and even oblong buttons in his favorite color – yellow. The sun is but a golden coin, lost somewhere in the folds of the satin sky and forgotten. It lends buttery light to the day and provides color for the holographic trimming of the sky.

Summer knows that his work must end, and he readily rolls it along to Autumn, who picks it up and restarts the cycle. On and on they dance, on and on they work, always adding their work to the world in their unique styles. Sometimes, the seasons have had a squabble, and cannot decide who should get to work. Other times, none of them want to claim a specific disaster of their art, be it a natural byproduct or a project gone wrong. Nevertheless the earth, once bare and lifeless, is full of endless years of artwork.

The world outside my window is but an illusion, the time of day a farce. The forest is more than just the trees, for the guardians of our reality are our seasons. Our seasons, who work tirelessly and endlessly, make the world more beautiful in their eyes. The passage of time is under the watchful eye of the celestial siblings, who protect our routine. They fight the monotony of endless dark to provide joyful days and peaceful nights. The world outside my window is much more than what I can see.

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