On hoarfrost and seizing the moment

7 Dec

When my husband opened the front door to bring in the newspaper yesterday morning, he was astonished to find our small porch vandalized, covered end to end in white silly string. So first he concluded through sleepy morning eyes as he called back to me. Then he realized he was looking at hundreds, literally hundreds of intricate cobwebs we hadn’t been able to see until now, glinting as they were with the season’s first hard frost. I joined him at the door and we marveled.

“Hoarfrost, it’s called”, my friend Kathy said as she and I walked later in the morning, our breath floating silver in the still brisk air. Hoarfrost– that’s a term I hadn’t heard since we’d lived in Maine, but yes, now I remembered. She’s lived in northern climates too, and the more north you are, the more words there are for cold things like frost.

As we walked, we couldn’t stop stopping to admire the delicate display: arborvitaes draped in webs hung like fine lace medallions, dry hydrangea blossoms strung together with deep bowed swags, loose long strands of web swaying softly from fence posts. It was SO beautiful. I thought about going back out with my camera later to take some pictures, but I had lots of work to do and it was cold and gloomy and . . . I decided to wait til today.

First thing this morning, I went outside to discover what I sought was gone. There was trace evidence of the magic that had been there yesterday, but a second night of hard frost caused the webs to collapse. The graceful curves, the refined geometry had disappeared. Now, all that remained were thick strands and clumps of white gunk awkwardly sticking to things. It actually looked much more like that plastic silly string.

I snapped the photo here of icy branches, still pretty but a poor substitute, and then came in to have a cup of tea.  As I sipped, I recalled having the same feeling of something beautiful slipping just out of reach in my work. I’ve found that ideas can be as ephemeral as cobwebs suspended in hoarfrost. If I don’t see and record moments when the seed of an idea presents itself, or a new connection surfaces, I lose its vibrancy when I try to reconstruct the moment later. So next time I feel like putting off the work of grappling with a spark of inspiration because I’m “busy”, I’ll remember today. And use even the palm of my hand if that’s all I have to capture a possibility, an idea, or an opportunity the moment it strikes.