Friday, March 11, 2011
“Today’s the last day of winter. Say ‘Good bye.’” I told Hugh.
Okay, I know that technically there were still a few more days to mark off the calendar before the solstice heralded the first official day of Spring. It sure felt like Spring was here. The ducks were starting to come on their migration north. Brown creepers, gold crowned kinglets, Canada geese and sandhill cranes were appearing in force.
Spiders were braving the still cool but warmer days, casting their thin lines from twig to twig in preparations of catching the midges that would soon hatch.
This morning, like recent mornings, the water has skim ice on it until the sun rises. The air temperature dramatically changes as the sun crests over Canada, to our east. Ice cracks and the water’s current slides sheets of it into the rocky shoreline. Forced onto shore they lay piled, each about a half inch thick. Almost crystal clear, the ice sheets look like a glazier’s nightmare, like sheets of glass carelessly shattered for yards on end. It is a beautiful sight to behold. Sharp corners, obtuse angles, straight and jagged edges, and smooth surfaces; like snowflakes – no two pieces are the same size or shape.
The lurking of Spring is felt by the tension building in the still calm water. Bears and raccoons may still be hibernating, but the lake, although she is quiet, she breathes and she is awake. All winter, except for the occasional storm from a southerly direction, the lake has been quiet – suppressed by the ice in its bays and coves. The main body of Lake Huron remains ice free – too warm and large to freeze solid. Without strong winds reaching across the lake from south to north or west to east, there are scarcely any waves. The small swell there is is too weak to break the east bay’s ice. Instead, yards of ice gently rise and fall, undulating as the gentle wave swells and recedes underneath it.
Before dawn, I slide out from my warm bed and join Hugh for a hot bowl of oatmeal before he goes off to work. Breakfast dishes can wait to be cleaned. I have my own appointment to keep. Daybreak waits for no one.
I bundle up – flannel-lined jeans, turtle neck, sweater, Carhartt overalls, park, mittens, neck warmer and hat. Lastly, I pull on my Muck boots. My Sorels, rated to -40 degree F, are too warm to wear on the verge of Spring. With my camera in my breast pocket I am prepared.
The ice won’t last much longer. In the coming days, the wind will start whipping across the lake, kicking up the waves to crash hard onto shore. The spring storms will quickly destroy the ice formations that have decorated the lake’s edge.
Birds twitter this morning and I feel the impending return of Spring. With each visit to the outhouse I’ve watched the moss on nearby fallen tree limbs for signs of Spring. Today the greenness has reached a heightened intensity; it is emerald rich. I realize this may be one of the last mornings to enjoy the incredible icy white landscape that has enthralled me for the last three months.
I am ready.
Oh Sun, cast yourself upon the lake’s jewels to bedazzle me one more time. Beautiful is your ruby red reflection on the water, surrounded by the amethyst purple sky. As I tilt closer to you, your warmth melts these wintery jewels, liquifying them to bring forth Spring.
Winter, you fool me no longer. Despite your occasional sharp winds, your bark was worse than your bite. Stacks and stacks of books go unread and winter projects remain untouched. I was ready to be confined indoors for days on end while you cast your fury upon us. Some called us brave and some called us fool hardy when told of our plans to live amidst your frozen waters. But we weathered you with nary a daydream of escaping your cold and icy clutches.
The allure of long winter nights to awaken leisurely and cozily, only emerging when grumbling tummies or full bladders could no longer be tolerated, did not overcome our awareness of the beauty of your dawning.
I learned quickly, and thankfully so, about the spectacles you would only reveal to those crazy enough to go for a single digit stroll.
– Sumptuous colors spread through the sky to create masterful sunrises.
– Crystal water enticing the fish within me to swim and splash in its crisp clearness.
– Rocks having shed their warm weather algae, expose a myriad of colors as found on Monet’s paint palette.
– He Raven and She Raven and Young Bald Eagle pass overhead on their morning breakfast searches.
– Paw prints in the snow tell tales of Coyote’s ambulations around the island, following the water’s edge.
– Tidy scat piles of fish scales and crawdad claws and shells mark Otter’s choice of delectable dining spots.
– Ice caves and chandelier pendants, frozen urchins and arctic crocodiles are encountered.
– Pure whites and rich soft blues under cloudless sky meet the eye.
– The frigid air is scented like summertime laundry, – fresh, crisp, and new; a tonic for the lungs.
– Silence greets me as stillness fills my ears.
Oh Winter, the wool is no longer pulled over my eyes, it is knitted into the earflaps of my hat. However, I don’t tie them tight, so I may hear your harmonious whispers. Oh, the glorious music that the frozen lake plays – chirps and twitters and melodic notes and ethereal harmonics conjure frogs, birds, violins, dolphins and synthesizers. These are songs from the heavenly bodies.
These stunning sights and luscious sounds mix with the smell of tasty air to create your glorious symphony. Your orchestra only plays for those of us who, at the same time, are brave and fool hardy.
You make no promises of what you will unveil. Only to those who dare to venture out, away from tales of soft winds and vibrant flowers, away from cozy warm stoves and floating marshmallows, will you display your glory.
I dared and am fool no longer.
Spring will valiantly burst rainbows over hill and dale. When shed of encumbrances, Summer is joyful. Bright crimson and gold crunching leaves once made me love Fall. Oh, but Winter, I never knew ‘til now your true riches. Winter, you are my joy and love, like no other. I will miss you when Spring comes forth and I will wait with parka by the door for your return.