Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Where spring and winter meet

It is spring and snow filters down through the intertwined branches of the forest. In the warmth of the sun from the blue sky snow becomes water, in the shadows it freezes again, long thin icicles hang from the tips of branches in the shape of raindrops.

Veils of snow let go from treetops drenched in sunlight and sprinkle down to the forest floor, tinkling almost musically through pine needles, crashing mutedly into branches and spraying in a fine mist against tree trunks.

The dogs disappear from the trail, the snow still deep underfoot with a hardened crust that supports some weight. They follow scents; listen for the sounds of other animals. The cricks and cracks of branches snapping back into place after relieving themselves of snow, the pops of ice breaking apart in the sun, cascading in particles through the air to crackle against tree trunks fill the woods with noise of movement. I expect to turn around and see whole hosts of animals traipsing amongst the trees.

Little sculpted mounds of snow, like tiny icebergs shaped by the sun and wind and dropping temperatures at night sit proudly on pine boughs illuminated and defiant, determined to wait out the heat of the strengthening sun before it can send them crashing to the ground.

Overhead the knocking of a woodpecker in a spreading poplar tree and above that the puffing steam-engine sweep of ravens’ wings as a pair fly in to view, jet-black bodies like holes in the sky absorb the sun and then a turn of a wing and the reflection of golden light.

There are rabbit tracks and faint imprints in the snow atop the crust of fox, maybe lynx, tiny dotted trails made by mice appearing at the base of one tree and disappearing at the base of another. The dogs break through in spots dig in others as scents emerge from beneath the thick white layer. Their heads disappear into the snow, sometimes up to their shoulders.

In open spaces the sun shines brilliantly, blindingly off the white expanse, all detail of windblown ridges or snaking animal tracks disappear at a distance, swallowed by the light of the sun. And its warmth is a solid thing, filling the spaces with a comfortable weight, mingling with the crisp cold smell of individual granules of snow shifting against one another, rolling themselves smooth and clear so up close they are a million tiny ice cubes, the look and feel of winter melting.

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