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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Still Life

Air Date: Week of

Sometimes time seems to stand still. But soon enough, as commentator Verlyn Klinkenborg notes, the clock resumes ticking, and the weather changes, marking the change of seasons.


KLINKENBORG: Every now and then I feel as though I’ve woken up in a Rembrandt etching – a low, tangled thicket of pen-strokes from which a landscape emerges.

YOUNG: Commentator Verlyn Klinkenborg.

KLINKENBORG: It’s not so much that the sky has taken on the tint of 17th-century drawing paper or that the world has lost its color. It has more to do with the balance of time. I wake up and nature seems to have paused in expectation. There is a numb overcast overhead, with little drift to it. Wood smoke slides down the roof and onto the road. The wild apples are waiting to fall. We are all inked in, caught in the moment. It’s an appealing illusion. I imagine being the human in one of Rembrandt’s landscapes -- that small figure standing in front of what looks like a cross between a house and a haystack. He is resting from something. Perhaps he’s even looking out from his garden at the artist working in the distance. It took no more ink to draw that figure than it would to write out a simple equation.

And yet there’s no mistaking his posture or the moment he’s given himself to rest, though that moment has now lasted since 1645. That’s how it felt this morning -- as if time had simply stopped. A crow had paused in the pasture. I counted fifteen mourning doves resting on a power line. The leaves that were going to fall had fallen, and the oaks were not about to relinquish theirs. The weather seemed to be waiting somewhere off to the west. A flight of birds stirred from the branches and then settled back almost immediately. I heard what sounded like a small dog barking in the distance and realized it was a flock of geese beyond the tree line. They never came into view.

Before long the breeze will stir, and rain will begin to fall. The silent anticipation hidden in such a quiet morning will be forgotten. The cry of a red-tailed hawk will unsettle the mourning doves, and one by one those wild apples will become windfall. And as the weather changes and the clock resumes its ticking, I’ll have to free myself from the artist’s ink before it dries completely, step outside and walk over the hill toward the sound of those distant geese.

YOUNG: Verlyn Klinkenborg lives on a small farm in New York state. He writes editorials for the New York Times.



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