Whatever Gets You Through the Night (or Winter)
Feb 22, 2017
This image, Light in the Forest, was shot three years ago. I was driving down a recently-plowed country road not far from my house near the center of the little Maine town I’ve called home for the last ten years. I was driving slowly due to the rough road conditions and happened to peek down a driveway I’d never noticed before. Initially, I simply saw an opening in the growing snow banks and green/black pines and firs draped in white. But then I caught a glimpse of a lone lamp post, standing sentry with a warm glow amidst the encroaching forest.
The scene was appealing enough that I turned around and drove back, my headlights obliterating the welcoming glow of the original view and showing a modest log home with its windows black and lonely, waiting just beyond the lamp post for the occupants to return. Though I’ve lived in this little town for years, I know only a few of my neighbors, and certainly not the folks who own the cabin at the end of this drive. Despite my concern that the homeowners would suddenly return or that a concerned neighbor would report a guy with a camera skulking about, I quickly grabbed my camera and doused my headlights.
I allowed my eyes a few minutes to adjust to the now-returned warm glow of the lamp, the light bouncing off the snow and making the space between trees just beyond its reach seem that much more black and impenetrable. I made a few camera adjustments and positioned myself in a location that would heighten the feeling that had drawn me to the scene and decrease the direct light bouncing off my lens as much as possible. Several clicks and only a few minutes later, I secured my lens cap, returned the camera to its bag and drove home.
The sometimes-relentless snow storms, gray skies and bone-chilling cold of a typical Maine winter often make me long for spring nearly before the season has even gotten underway. One of the old saws regarding the local climate is that Maine has eight months of winter and two months of "rough sledding."
It was a February evening that had that "eight months" feel to it, when the scene above called me to stop and get out my camera. I realized later, as I edited my shot, that it was partially inspired by a memory of a scene from C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe." The scene features an old-fashioned lamp post, whose flame shines day and night and sits alone in the middle of a forest, and is discovered by the character of Lucy.
Young Lucy, a British girl staying in the relative safety of the countryside during World War II, has discovered that the lamp post marks the edge of the magical land of Narnia and shows it to her siblings, saying “It will not go out of my mind that if we pass this post and lantern, either we shall find strange adventures or else some great changes of our fortunes.” Eventually, the lamp post also allows the children to find their way home.
Despite my challenge in enjoying Maine winters, Light in the Forest dispelled a bit of the gloom for me. Are winters where you live cold and snowy? Do they feel like they last forever? Or are your winters mild? Either way, what helps get you through the winter?