Piles of cow patties highlighted against an overgrazed and muddy pasture have always defined late winter in South Carolina for me. Like a city street photographed in black and white, there is a certain bare grittiness about it. The pale tan of the pasture. The dark brown of the muck where cattle push and shove for access to the hay. The black piles of manure scattered randomly among it all.
It paints a picture of a struggle for life against all that is cold and wet and meager.
Stark is the perfect word for a Carolina winter. The very opposite of lush, it is represented by angular light that reflects off bare limbs and trunks. There are no canopies of green leaves to diffuse the light. It bounces off of the trees like they are pewter mirrors, dull and spare.
I find winter a great time to walk in the woods, scouting for the upcoming turkey season or even next fall’s deer season. I can see a long way. Without leaves to interrupt the view, things the next ridge over define themselves. My eyes are drawn to foci that are different—an abandoned fox’s den dug into an embankment, the way a vein of boulders seem to rise from the soil in an organized fashion, the skeleton of a raccoon. A turkey feather, splotches of owl manure like white paint on brown leaves, water seeping from rocks and the back of an old boat cushion all catch my attention.
Winter, you see, presents itself as a study of light and dark, texture, angles and apertures.
Yet among the hollows, bones and various scattered human artifacts, there lurks the promise of life.
Shoots of new growth rest just beneath the surface, and here and there they push through the leaves. Buds sit on tree limbs, ready to burst themselves open when the time is nigh. I see things to come in the brilliant green of the invasive milfoil and in the humble yellow of a dandelion blossom.
Come, go on this walk with me.