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JANUARY, THAT TWO-FACED MONTH, TIPTOES IN

A CACHE OF SEASONS First of a series by Margaret Pettis, Hyrum

Margaret Pettis, HUPC board member and editor of THE LYNX, has begun writing a regular column for Logan s Herald Journal. The monthly column will celebrate the changing seasons and beauty of the natural world. We are publishing her first column here and refer you to the newspaper s website (www.hjnews.com) where you can read the column the first Friday of each month in the Outdoors Section.

It is January, the much heralded beginning of this new calligraphy of years. Janus, the double-faced Roman god of gates and doors whose opposing bearded and unbearded head symbolized at once sun and moon, was worshipped at the arrival of important personal events-- planting, harvest, puberty, marriage, birth. Yet who among the impatient throngs riveted below the shimmering ball commanding Times Square recognized their role in that mythology?

Here, and in other countless, less raucous celebrations, a quieter acknowledgment of that mythic duality opened the millennial door. For those of us captivated not by a glitter- studded, televised ball, but rather by the unmatched brilliance of the Solstice moon, Janus gates swung wide with a spectacle!

But an unfamiliar warmth escorted the two-faced god of ancient times. Under starry constellations named for other gods, I listened to long scraping echoes of ice breaking on Hyrum Lake. From five blocks away, the haunting shifting moans of the buckling surface had drawn me, one warm midnight, into the spell of its great transformation. To describe what I heard-- a great steel ball wobbling across a wooden floor? An antique table dragged over a hollow landing? A planetary song from another atmosphere? The splintered emergence of seizing leviathan into the cool air of a black night?-- would be as futile as trapping a ghost's image on film.

I tilted my head to capture where the ice first sent up its shattering, cracking pierce of the lake's vaulted ceiling-- and heard silence. A screech owl threaded the air from dark pines on my left, behind, to my right. Blackness dissolved; the moon emerged. Silence, broken by cracking ice. Days ago a blizzard piled drifts against the house and chickadees flitted in powdery boughs of the box elder. Then a Chinook roared through the trees, puddled the lawns, bared daylilies to curious robins. What will be the springtime fate of those that sprouted buds in the season of Janus?

In mere days, it seemed, the lake transformed from water to ice, then began unraveling into a shawl of sparkle and opacity. One friend prays for rising temperatures so he can shoot at ducks; another prays it freezes so he can plumb the awl-round world of fish. From a dense clutch of cottonwoods, I discovered a lighter side of the fickle lake-- and would take home only a story. Three dozen coots filed like penguins across the ice from a pool far out in the center to another watery gash just beyond my blind: one by one, they took low flights-- some settled gracefully onto the water; some overshot the pool, toppled, legs akimbo, and skimmed over the ice like feathered skipping stones; some slipped off the runway in a twirling, wing-digging splash into the midst of their agitated fellows.

I am drawn back: a great horned owl calls far across the lake. A higher pitched voice answers from the west. A cracking in the ice skirrs past. Here the moon is muted on ice; out there, it glints on water. Black pines nestle against white slopes. High in its misty heaven, the moon is cradled in a net alive with the staccato rattling of naked, windy boughs. My hands are chilled; again I pull on gloves. The night smells of wood smoke, spilling from chimneys of modern Prometheans, holding back the night.

Before heading home, I stop to check on my horse. Hearing my boots crunch the ice, her black body steps from the dark hull of the board-bare barn, crosses the field of white, and joins me at the rail. Our shadows blend. A silver crescent of moon floats on the black trough. Yin-yang. The two faces of Janus.


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