Sunday, December 27, 2015

cinnamon iceballs on a stick: a christmas-riverside collaboration

Most any day is a good day to walk out and see something wondrous, but, for me, when this happened on Christmas Day, it was particularly nice.

this here is the next day

It had been, for the most part, an ordinary, non-eventful day. That morning the full moon, behind a thick overcast, managed to shed a diffused kind of light on the lightest of snow covers, most of our snow of last week having been beaten away by rain, leaving just a thin crust of icy snow poked through by plenty of ground and what the ground gives birth to. That thin crust reflected as best it could the vague light of the diffused moon, and it was rather low-key, but interesting all the same, to see how it could be so light while so dark, or so dark while so light, but really, not all that much to get excited about.

this was the morning of the next day

Josie and I took our regular afternoon walk, the one that often takes us along the river, and he had run on ahead, as he usually does, even more so, now, it seems, with a little snow to thrash about in, because snow sharpens the senses, or, rather, snow heightens sight and sound, this I know, so why not smell? Dogs already sniff out a zillion more things than you or I, so just imagine suddenly there being new smells, stronger smells, and all, it seems, lurking beneath this cool stuff called “snow.”

Christmas Day he took off like a shot. And me, I was going slow because the riverbank trail is always tricky with big steps up, slippery steps down, fallen trees to scramble over and thickets to crash through. Josie does this easily, but not so I, especially with a top layer of slippery snow and ice. The riverbank is tangled and woody right up to the water’s edge, and yes, the river is flowing freely still, though it has tried to ice up now and again, most recently about a week ago, when we had that snow, but on Christmas Day it was high, muddy brown, and moving along.

when the river tried to ice up

On this walk one comes to a spot where the brush clears and you can stand at the water’s edge, as I did, for a moment, as I usually do, as this spot is just before the bend in the river and I like to see what is happening with the island in the bend, the island that is not always an island but lately has been as the river has swelled with rain and once again cut off this chunk of land from shore. The water curls around the bend and swirls around fallen trees and branches and this grassy chunk of land, and there’s the broad, upsweeping opposite bank, and sometimes eagles are in the trees over there, or crows, but most often lately just chickadees flitting about this bank, but anyway, I stop to look around, take it all in.

this is how it looked the next morning

Nothing out of the ordinary this Christmas Day, until I looked at my feet, the water’s edge, saw this wondrous thing: balls of ice had formed midway up (or down) the dry stalks of grass and twigs that the river alternately laps around and abandons, and these icy balls were shot through with sand giving them a muted, swirly, cinnamon color.

I tried, briefly, to imagine all the elements of movement and temperature that came together to create sandy ice balls on twigs and stalks along the river’s edge, but I could not grasp it, my mind moved too quickly away from it, for who knows, maybe astrology, physics, and moon phases were involved, maybe elves and Jack Frost, I certainly didn’t know, just knew I was being pulled back along the river’s edge, scrambling through the brush, seeing more and more of these sandy ice balls on sticks and stalks, and some were small and round, smaller than ping pong balls, and some were bell-shaped. Some were larger, looked a bit molten, and some looked as if they had grown too large for their assigned twig or britches and so had spread and sprawled, like The Blob, maybe in an attempt to take over, maybe no longer content with their one little branch but wanting the next and the one after that, like an ink blot gone wild, suspended in midair, delicately held aloft by those lowly stalks and twigs; and some reminded me of small, papery hornets’ nests, and some reminded me of lightly toasted marshmallows on campfire sticks. Some could have been pearl onions, slightly charred, stuck on a skewer, hot off the barbecue, or maybe they were cocktail mushrooms being served on giant toothpicks, riverside, on Christmas Day, a delicacy!

I stumbled and crawled, I slipped and slid, I lay there entranced.

the next day

After a while, I got up. I walked on to the area where I thought Josie would be and I called and I whistled. He did not come. I decided not to get mad, not to worry, and started walking home. Just before I reached the steps that lead up to the meadow, Josie came racing along, sped past me.

The next morning we broke routine and went to the riverside early. It had begun to snow, and I wanted to take pictures of the cinnamon ice balls on sticks before they got buried. This time Josie stuck with me, which I appreciated.

All day the snow fell in its quiet, thick way, and by the time the afternoon walk came around there were a few inches on the ground. Now, this morning, there are a few inches more. When Josie went out in that dim bright light of moon-on-snow with cloud diffuser, looking for a place to do business, the snow nearly up to his chin, it looked as if he were floating, hovering, moving about, just skimming the surface.