Monday, December 21, 2009
Okay darkness, you've done your worst. After today, the light slowly gains on you. And as if to celebrate Solstice, the sun shone clear and bright today. I'm busy, busy, busy now, getting ready for Christmas and all, but the day demanded I spend just a little time outdoors, and so I did. I wanted to check on the river ice, since we've had several days with nights around zero, and I'm getting eager to explore the frozen marshes and river banks on foot.
Sure enough, there was lots of ice. In fact, the entire river was frozen over, all the way across, where the water approached the Sherman Island Dam. Here's the view from the end of Rippled Rocks Point:
That dark ice on the main course of the river was still very thin, while in the coves and bays, the white ice in the center was probably plenty thick enough to support my weight, but I still didn't dare to test it. As the river's water level rises and falls with the opening and closing of the dams, the ice at the edges cracks and breaks again and again, creating open water near the banks. This water refreezes, but it's very thin in spots, so a foot -- or more! -- could plunge through. No fun. In a couple of weeks the ice will be thick enough close to shore to allow me to venture out on the bays (never on the open river). I'll wait.
I walked around in the woods a bit, trying to ID some animal tracks, but the snow is old and crusty (we didn't get any of that big snow storm that buried the state south of Albany), and my tracking skills are rusty. I did find a Red Squirrel's dining room, where the squirrel obviously sat on the logs and stripped the pine cones to get at the tasty seeds. From the looks of this site, I could almost imagine the squirrels were having a banquet.
On the way home, I stopped at the boat launch site below Spier Falls Dam, and here where the current runs swift, the river is still wide open, except for a shelf of thin ice near the shore. As the winter progresses, this ice shelf will thicken and become a superhighway for animal travel. A couple of days after a snowfall, it's amazing to see the variety and abundance of tracks along this stretch: coyote, fox, fisher, mink, otter, bobcat, possibly others. It's less work for the forest creatures to walk on the wind-swept river ice than to trudge through the deep snow under the trees. As I know very well myself.
I think of Solstice as kind of the sun's birthday, and so it was lovely to see these sunbeams dancing on the water as if in celebration. Welcome back, lengthening days. We here in the north are very glad to see you.
Time to pull out those old dead ferns from my front porch planters and replace them with living cedars strung with stars. Time to drape evergreens over the door, spangled with tiny lights. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." Thanks be to God.