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The Snow Lotus: Exploring the Eternal Moment

Peter M. Leschak
Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 184
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttv8wn
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  • Book Info
    The Snow Lotus
    Book Description:

    A Native American proverb states that “yesterday is ashes, tomorrow is wood, only today does the fire burn brightly.” This series of essays, set in the north woods of Minnesota, is woven around the theme of the importance of being alive and aware in the present. Deeply rooted in the natural world, The Snow Lotus shares the philosophical and emotional insights author Peter M. Leschak has acquired from a life lived close to nature.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8749-7
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Deer Beds: A Prologue
    (pp. 1-4)

    The telephone jangled at 3:32 A.M. After thirteen years as a firefighter—being randomly paged at any and all hours—my conditioned response to such a nighttime call is amusing. I truly cannot move as fast when awake and in daylight.

    By the end of the first ring the quilt was off and my feet thumped the floor. I was staring at the digital clock on the dresser: 3-3-2. By the end of the second ring I had covered half the distance to the office phone, in darkness. I vaguely recall butting an obstacle, perhaps the library doorjamb. I clawed...

  5. The Snow Lotus
    (pp. 5-10)

    It’s a singular season, ripe with old scat, and The Reverend is attentive. The only time he’ll allow me to surge past him on skis is when he pauses to vigorously sniff at the winter’s accumulation of wolf droppings. I’m pleasantly surprised at how many there are. It’s March 21st, and we have heard the local pack singing only four times since early November, but the trail is peppered with dark, furry stools.

    Businesslike, but rushed—for I quickly glide ahead—Rev sprinkles his scent on each collage before sprinting up and blowing by me to compulsively regain the lead....

  6. Snow White and the Timberwolf
    (pp. 11-18)

    If you slice an apple in half crosswise, the bisected seed pod will appear as a near-perfect five-pointed star, which is, traditionally, a symbol of immortality. In the proper setting—say, a party where wine has nudged the perceptions of the resident metaphysicians (and aren’t we all?)— a demonstration can be dramatic, especially when wielding a big knife.

    In Celtic myth, apples were representative of immortality via wisdom, so it’s not surprising that although the Book of Genesis doesn’t specify which fruit the Serpent convinced Eve and Adam to consume illicitly, subsequent legend insisted it was an apple. And a...

  7. Blue Velvet Number Nine
    (pp. 19-26)

    We understood that the black spruce planting site would punish us. The customary habitat of black spruce is wetland, and as Richard said when we first observed the site, “You know you’re in trouble when you’re planting trees next to marsh marigolds.”

    With intermittent help from Newman and couple of others, Richard and I had been “slamming in seedlings” at various locations for nine days. So far we’d been blessed. The weather was unseasonably cool, which held the mosquitoes and black flies at bay, and also conserved our sweat. While planting jack pine and white spruce up on the Dahlberg...

  8. The Cosmos and Lysistrata
    (pp. 27-32)

    I blinked at a universe down in the bog. It was an early morning in late May, and the temperature had been near frost at dawn, about thirty-four degrees. A pregnant dew collapsed out of the ether, heavy as rainfall, and the labrador tea and leatherleaf were beaded and brilliant.

    Streaming from just over the spruce tops, sunlight glutted the bog, and I was dazzled by thousands of spiderwebs. They were mostly small, two to three inches in diameter, and seemed to occupy every available notch and twig. The dwarf birch, the tea, the leatherleaf, even higher clumps of sphagnum...

  9. A Damn Idiot
    (pp. 33-40)

    It was a wet summer in Idaho’s Nez Perce National Forest, and the mountains were ripe with wildf lowers. In a meadow above Fish Creek I was cheered by flecks and clusters of color—red, yellow, blue, violet, orange— against a lush backdrop of multiple shades of green encompassed by a cloudspeckled sky. There was a bee hovering on nearly every blossom, and they generated a pervasive hum that seemed a vibration of the air itself.

    Though I had recently cataloged fifty-three species of wildflowers on our forty acres of woods back in Minnesota (and expected to find many more),...

  10. Washing the Sky to Amber
    (pp. 41-50)

    One sizzling afternoon, as we hunkered down in “the black” next to a charred deadfall, The G-Man said, “Every day out here has at least onemoment.”

    I nodded, reckoning the slow hours of monotony and drudgery that are often the most formidable challenge of a wildfire crew. Contrary to vivid impressions offered by the media, boredom is more customary than terror, yawns as potent as adrenaline. “It all pays the same” is a proverb of the fire grunt, but it’s easier to dig line, drenched in sweat, than to stand by—waiting, waiting—for transportation, for deci- sions, for...

  11. The Guts of God
    (pp. 51-58)

    “Tonight” Loki assured me, “would be an ideal time to die.”

    He’s a hopeless liar, and merely a fleeting voice in my head, but in the wake of that stunning passage of the autumnal equinox, I agreed. In principle. Mercury and Jupiter had gleamed briefly on the orange stage of dusk, setting fortyfive minutes behind the sun. The diurnal solar death was gilded with the aroma of late September. It would be natural to join the dying, be eaten by the earth, digested by trees—in the sheen of waxing starlight.

    But I realize it may not have been Loki...

  12. Later
    (pp. 59-66)

    We figured out later that at the precise moment Pam was in the house talking about Alice, I was crushing her with the left rear wheel of my pickup truck. Pam was telling her colleague Maggie that we had to be careful when Alice, our eighteen-year-old cat, was outside, because she was nonchalant about vehicles and slow to avoid them. We had to deposit her on the cedar rail fence—a favorite clawsharpener—as a distraction, before we could exit the garage.

    That night I was off to fetch a pizza at Bimbo’s, and as I opened the back door...

  13. The Awesome TripIe-L
    (pp. 67-78)

    I wrote a novel once, worked at it off-and-on for nine years. I finished it three times, with each incarnation longer and more complex than the last. A New York literary agent dubbed it “original,” but I didn’t let that go to my head. I knew she was employingoriginalas a gentle euphemism forweird. As evidence, I only need mention that one of my chief characters was a precocious German shepherd named Francis Bacon, Mr. Bacon for short. Nevertheless, I aggressively marketed the manuscript myself for a while, until I finally recognized it was mostly crap. How many...

  14. Ditching the Future
    (pp. 79-90)

    When I was thirteen years old, my brother David was seven and a half. Because of that age difference, we weren’t buddies. The school system—omnipotent social arbiter—had established us six grades apart. Though most students are analogous by the time of graduation, or at least more alike than different, a span of six grades is treated as a broad social and cultural gulf. As a rule, seventh-graders don’t associate with first-graders, and that’s certainly the way my friends and I felt in the summer of 1963. There are, of course, other distinctions between puberty-wracked early teens and kids...

  15. Nasty Business
    (pp. 91-104)

    I’ll call the victim Sulo, and if Neil and I had known his plan, we’d never have invited him into the sauna. I was helping Neil construct a boathouse out of cedar logs a few bright summers ago, and we worked hard at it all day. Neil lit his neighbor’s sauna after lunch, and periodically stoked the firebox the rest of the afternoon. We anticipated a relaxing steambath after our labors, and we wanted it hot.

    Visitors dropped by shortly before dusk, as we were tying up the project for the day. It was a friends-of-friends situation, and neither Neil...

  16. Total Eclipse of the Clouds
    (pp. 105-110)

    The illness punched me. I was stretched out in front of the woodstove, watching a video, and as I stood up, chills consumed me instantly. I shuddered, teeth chattering, and Pam stared from across the room. We were astounded by the sudden violence. My only warning had been a vague scratchiness at the back of the throat, but until the moment of assault I felt fine—had skied five miles cross-country only hours before.

    The first wave of shivers passed, and I started upstairs. But on the second step a downdraft swept by, and the chills returned in a fury....

  17. Blood Walk
    (pp. 111-118)

    I walked twenty-five miles in a wet snowfall. The route was a labyrinthine trek through the streets of Mankato, Minnesota, a town I’d never seen before I stepped off the bus that morning. I was issued a crude map, but it was nearly useless, and soon smeared. I was at the mercy of small, handmade signs and arrows—stuck in snowbanks, or tacked to boulevard elms and maples. They were difficult to discern through, the screen of swirling snowflakes, and after about fifteen miles I began to feel the full consequences of my fast. I was weak, my senses bleary,...

  18. The Magic Puck
    (pp. 119-126)

    A few years ago I was offered a full-time job—with benefits. The hourly wage was decent and the work didn’t sound onerous. It was income and security we certainly needed. Such offers—out of the blue—are rare.

    I turned it down immediately.

    Actually, I was surprised at the swiftness of my response. That must mean, I reasoned, that it was the correct decision. But there was irony in the timing. It was the winter solstice, and overcast besides, the darkest day of the year. An omen Media pundits were trumpeting recession, and the economic outlook, especially locally, did...

  19. Tilting Round the Far Spruce
    (pp. 127-132)

    Like an alchemist with his stone, I carried my skis to the edge of the bog that rings Secret Lake. It was January 28th, and if not for the trail I’d been tramping since early November, I would have wallowed past my knees in snow.

    “I went out to the hazel wood,” wrote W. B. Yeats, “Because a fire was in my head.” I went out onto the frozen lake because there was a glow in the east—moonrise. And because there was a fire in my head. If Yeats meant a longing for wonder and a restlessness of mind...

  20. An Easy Winter
    (pp. 133-156)

    It was a mild winter with little snow—an easy one—but I felt lucky to see the spring. Some didn’t make it.

    We drove into that winter on December 1st, winding down the Stingy Lake Forest Road with the headlights off. A misting of snow had painted the gravel white and left the forest black. The snowfall vanished into the woods, settling delicately on leaf litter and needle duff, invisible from the car, and the road was like a milky stream twisting through the trees. The halogen beams glared off the crystals, so I killed the lights and slowed...

  21. Smoking Mountain
    (pp. 157-162)

    When I came to I saw that Brute was still out cold, lying on his back in the volcanic ash. We were fortunate that this wasn’t some hairy technical climb, where we were inching around rock outcrops or depending on handholds, because it was the second time in a half hour that we had both passed out. Our elevation was about 16,000 feet, and the air was lean.

    I slipped my battered Pentax Spotmatic out of the camera bag, and bracing against the slope, squeezed off a shot of the prostrate Brute. His pals would be amused. He had earned...

  22. Farewells
    (pp. 163-166)

    Three years in a row I left home for the summer. I had a job with the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho, battling wildfires. My specific position was in “helitack,” as a member of a helicopter crew. Our missions included initial attack on fires, medevacs, search and rescue, reconnaissance (visual and infrared), slinging cargo, and the support and retrieval of smokejumpers. It’s considered dangerous work, and we earned a lot of “H-pay,” that is, a “hazard differential” akin to military combat pay. It was 25 percent of our base rate per hour, and was coveted almost as much as overtime....

  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 167-167)