Just Shelley Places

Soft arcs of winter white

Recovered from the Wayback Machine. This is derived from trip notes recorded in paper journal

I started the trip to California under clear skies that lasted with me until Colorado. I arrived at Denver around sunset and the sky was beautiful, a blue-gold color that speckled the dark grey clouds gathering to the west, and gilded the green of the trees and the grass on the side of the road.

I stopped for the evening in Cheyenne, spending the night listening to the many trains blowing through town, each with its own distinctive whistle. I would begin to drift off when a whistle would blast, close by, startling me awake. I would listen, heart pounding as the whistle faded, the sound becoming softer, sadder as the train moved further away.

Leaving early the next morning, the snow started falling as soon as I left the city behind and entered the pass. The traffic, the few of us, a minivan, a small red car and myself, slowed, staying behind a couple of trucks that had downshifted for their trip down the mountain.

The driving was challenging but manageable, and the reduced speed allowed me to look about. I noticed ring-billed gulls, sea gulls really, next to the road. They lost much of their grace and speed under the onslaught of the cold snow and frozen rain, flapping hard to clear the land, rising awkwardly rather than with the sureness I had seen with gulls at the beach. They didn’t seem right there by the side of the road in a land locked state, chilled by the cold.

I was looking at one pair when out of the corner of my eye I caught an arc of white coming over the concrete divider between our lanes and the lanes of the freeway going in the other direction. A white car had lost control and was spinning on the highway, throwing snow all around, like petals on a flower suddenly opening in a spiral of white.

By some miracle the car missed a truck that shared the road with it, but I didn’t think it could miss the divider. I didn’t see how it could miss the divider. However, when I looked back, I saw it regain control and continue on down the road, unharmed.

I had tensed while watching the car spin about, and once I saw it was safe, I relaxed, yawning from the sudden cessation of stress. I didn’t see the two sea gulls in the road as they tried to take off. I did see the one lift just enough to fly safely to the side of the car. And I saw the other hit my window, flowing up and over the car and falling in a boneless, soft arc of winter white and silver grey to the road as I watched in my rearview mirror.

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