January 17

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A Little Landscape Without Photographs

This corner of Tennessee is strangely drab in summertime. The nearby hills, although they continue to be rolling, often look small, unambitious, un-eye-catching. The trees, although doing their best to cover the landscape in a vivid green, are mostly of the same green. There’s something futile in their attempts to cover over and beautify the suburban sprawl and low-density commercial gunk that makes the life in West Knoxville so pleasantly liveable.

Predictably, the area is beautiful in autumn. Then, the many shades of leaf bring an incredible richness and depth to the miles and miles of hills. The reds, oranges, and light greens mingle and contrast. It’s lovely, obviously.

But I have been surprised by how beautiful this winter has been. The masquerade is gone. The denuded tree trunks, standing bare aside from the ivy and pine, finally reveal how densely populated these hills are: a very human landscape, humming with the cold of winter, the proof of all those lives going on throughout the silent distance. Many of the coldest days have been perfectly clear, and often at night, the moon seems to have burned away all the clouds in its half of the sky.

This Monday, driving home after a 6am spin class, the sky to the southeast was a jagged mass of yellow clouds and smoke, rising against a still black sky. An hour later, when I took the dogs out for their morning exercise, the top of the hill was shining in waves of pink and blue through the tree branches, with the light of the sky somehow not reaching the street, the bottom of the hill remaining gloomy and grey.

I walked the dogs, came home, checked facebook, and found several of my Knoxville friends had remarked about the beauty of the morning.

 


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