Friday, January 14, 2011
“Go out and go for a walk.” Hugh was on his way out the door. It was about 7 AM and the sun was not up yet, not was I. I had no clients that day and there was no reason for me to go into town so I did not have to get up with him in the dark at 6 AM. I could sleep in for another hour or so. He knew that I can get caught up on doing things on my laptop – emails to clients, marketing classes, writing, checking out Facebook and blogs and shopping. Yes shopping. I have been looking for boots, but that is for a later time.
He is usually very soft spoken and nonchalant about things. But last Friday morning there was a stronger tone in his voice as he really urged me to get up and enjoy the beauty the island has.
“It’s really beautiful out.” He said as he left for work.
“I love you. Be safe.” I replied as I always do when he leaves for work.
“I love you too.”
Duly admonished and knowing I should get up I was not able to sleep much more. I knew he was right so I soon got up and dressed. My usual routine is to turn on my phone and check the office voicemail for messages, while my computer is turning on and connecting to the internet. Where I get sucked into the chair and black hole of the computer screen is by checking my email. The spam gets deleted and I quickly skim the headlines for the news. Emails announcing sales are quickly deleted unless I am looking for something or from a particular company; this is when I can get off track and go shopping. (Have I ever mentioned we do not have shopping malls here?) And there are client emails to reply to from that morning or from the day(s) prior. This also gets my fingers glued to the keyboard. Then I start going on tangents of emails or research that are on my “to do” list.
Friday morning the sun was still along the horizon. The photographer knew that the light would be special. I decided to just do a quick purging of the nonessential and leave replies for later when the sun was too high in the sky. I munched a cherry pecan oatmeal cookie. Breakfast would also wait; the sun would not.
Standard attire for single digit or low teen temperatures is thick wool socks, camisole, turtle neck or mock t-neck, wool sweater, and flannel lined jeans. Just before Thanksgiving, I splurged on two more pairs of LL Bean flannel lined jeans. I tried a pair from Carhartt but they do not fit me as well; I am too tall so they are uncomfortable to sit in for long periods. I have worn LL Bean’s flannel lined for years and never been disappointed. Even though they were not on sale they have been so worth it.
Down the stairs to the outdoor gear. Finally I have worked out the order of what order to put things on. First the neck warmer, then ear muffs. These are not your mother’s frufru fluffy ones, they are made by 180Degrees (got from LL Bean a couple years ago). They are great and tuck neatly under the hat that goes on next. Carhartt overalls are pulled on and the legs get unzipped from the ankle up to the knee. Then come the boots. Currently it is my new Muck boots that I am pulling on most often. Overalls then get zipped closed and I put on and zip up my winter coat, again from LL Bean. I tuck my small Panasonic digital camera in the outer breast pocket. Now come the thin but warm alpaca gloves that I picked up at a third world shop in Fells Points, Baltimore. I should have gotten a couple pairs but they only had one pair that fit me. Over the alpaca gloves go the wool and leather mittens with their own “fingers.” I am now ready to enjoy the sunny yet cold 3.3 degree morning.
Thursday it snowed.
And Friday it was clear.
I decide to walk the little trail that leads from the house directly to the southern tip of Shelter Island. The flat dolomite rocks were covered with snow. Small cedars stuck out along with the remnants of once blossomed harebells, silverweed, and cinquifoil bushes. The lake was perfectly still. And unusually still. Mist rose from the lake as the sun warmed the air above it.
Squarish boulders along the waterline looked like they are wearing hats made of layers of ice.
Ice takes many forms and shapes.
As the sun rises the so does the breeze. The lake sloshes up against the ice encrusted rocks. I watch my step. Some areas it is easy to know I am on solid ice. Other areas it is not clear. A few inches of solid ice is enough to support a person, but fresh ice can be iffy. I test an area that looks like it might support me by gently placing my left foot on it and shift some of my weight to it. In slow motion I realize that my foot sank. I do not feel anything cold, nor wet. Slowly I realize I should pull my foot out of the lake. I lift up my leg. My overalls are wet up to my calf, but I did not feel any water in my boot. Hugh’s advice of buying boots as tall as possible was wise.
For all you worrying mothers, I want you to know that I am very careful. I knew that were I to completely fall in, I would only be up to my knees. Yes, I might have been cold and wet but the house is only a minute’s walk away. I knew that I would not freeze of hypothermia.
Nearby there is a large group of pancake ice. Pancake ice is formed when a chunk of ice is repeatedly pushed up against other ice or rocks or hard surface. This causes a small part chipped off and the pushing motion causes the ice chunk to rotate. Repeatedly this causes the flat edges and sharp corners to become round and shaped like a pancake.
A little further north, in the mouth of the frozen west bay are dragon snouts. When the waves crash up onto the shore the cold water freezes upon contact. Higher and higher a cone forms with an opening to the water. They make me think of a dragon buried under the ice, breathing through these openings; hence dragon snouts.
All along the water’s edge are tracks. There are otter and coyote tracks. I follow a set over the frozen west bay, walking where three months prior it was all water. They lead to a trail through the woods. Hugh has shown me this trail. It comes out on the tractor road past the north dock. During non-winter I have a difficult time finding the hidden opening, but the tracks that I follow show the way.
It is difficult to determine if the tracks I have been following are otter or fox. In the woods I spot the distinctive hopping paws of a snow shoe hare.
I come out on the tractor road and walk to the north dock and east bay. The east bay is completely frozen over. Only a few yards from shore the ice will give way. Today’s ice that covers from side to side will be easily swept away with any breeze.
There is a squiggle on the ice. It looks like it could be an otter slide. Closer examination reveals it is a deep crack in the ice. Yes, I stay off the ice.
The lake is lower than I have ever seen it. I walk along the exposed bedrock. Nestled in a large solution hole1 is what appears to be an ice urchin.
The ice is impressive. There is a piece of pancake ice that looks like someone took a knife and sawed a balloon in the ice. It is perfectly round with a squiggle of a string for a tail.
I continue along the shore, making my way south to the east dock.
Emerging out of the frozen wastes there appears to be a crocodile eating a boulder. Fangs and all drape down the sides of the boulder in preparation of its meal.
Even though it is now about 10 AM mist is still steaming off the lake making the south point look like the magical place it is.
1 A solution hole is concavity that is formed in the dolomite rock, indigenous to this area, when chemicals react between the water and minerals in the rock.