Maybe because we’ve waited so long for spring this year, or maybe its just that these wonders are more precious with each passing year, but surely the delicate beauty of the huckleberry buds opening has never been quite so breathtakingly beautiful to me.
The colours are muted and soft along the Heritage Forest Road, and the ground is rock hard, frozen solid. It may look like there’s little life in the landscape, that it everything is ‘dead’. Dull. How far from the truth!
As we walked the road what struck me was how many signals there were that even in the quiet stillness of winter, and its apparent barrenness, there is a pulsing vitality to the season: the creeks burble beneath a skim of ice, lichens hang conspicuously from limbs all round, colourful slime molds are ‘there’ for the observant eye as are various fascinating fungi; winter birds— wrens, sparrows, nuthatches, chickadees and towhees flit amongst the low shrubs while the finches and others occupy the higher branches; the deer meander and graze undisturbed. Surely the forest pulses with life as much in winter as any season.
I wonder if maybe the forest and its creatures enjoy the relative quiet. Maybe its their ‘sabbath’.
Finlay Lake Conservation Area – Click on image for a larger view
We’d wanted to walk in to Finlay Lake for a while, so with the sun shining brilliantly, it seemed a good day to set out for this quiet spot.
The path leading through the forest was bursting with spring shoots, and the birds were singing in the canopy above us, and the winter wrens and towhees rustling in the ferns and salal.
When the path opened to the lake there were a few Buffleheads on the far side, but otherwise all was still. Occasionally a raven’s call echoed through the trees, and an eagle flew past. Otherwise, simply stillness— but a stillness that is burgeoning with life.
Bringing in the firewood on a rainy autumn day— the reward is many hours of quiet fireside warmth.
When we were kids, one of our morning chores was to fill the storage box with wood for the stove— a wonderful cast iron wood-stove. It had a smallish oven (big enough for a small turkey), and a shelf above for the pots and frypans. Each morning we’d go to the woodshed to load up the wheelbarrow, and then after pushing it across the lawn to the porch, we’d lift it out piece by piece, stack it in our arms, and traipse into the kitchen with those armloads of carefully split wood. Often we’d have to replenish the kindling supply as well. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as splitting cedar rounds into wedges, then into inch wide slabs and then the plink, plink, plink, of the kindling pieces flying off and landing on the growing pile. Until I was old enough to wield the hatchet, my job was to pick up the chopped kindling and stack it neatly in the box, avoiding getting hit by flying kindling.
Hatchets, chopping blocks, cedar smell, fir sap— and wheel barrows. Good memories— memories coloured by the years, I’m sure, as I think it was harder work by far when three sticks of firewood was an armload. Now, my arms are bigger, the wheelbarrow is more ‘modern’ and the wood is only for the comfort and coziness of the living room, rather than for keeping the stove going to cook our food, and boil the water.
Times have changed, but the fragrance and the basic tools remain.
After a day of drenching rain yesterday, and the general sogginess, the sun broke through today in a most glorious manner. Perfect weather for a walk and to venture beyond the bounds of our own homestead. We headed up to the Bluffs as we hadn’t been there for a while, and I was eager to get some autumnal photo-shots from that perspective.
One of the striking sights, illumined by the brilliant sunlight, was the extravagant hangings of hairy lichens. Somehow they were more emphatically ‘present’ than I recall. Maybe the combination of weather patterns and clean air has made it a bumper season for lichen growth.
What caught my eye here was the dominance of the vertical lines: the tree trunks in the background, the drooping lichen in the foreground.
My daily walks up the road are always a pleasure. Well, mostly always. Sometimes, if its just plummeting rain, my pleasure is dampened (so to speak). But today it was a real pleasure, as the leaves dappled the road, and the sun was still slanting through the trees, even if weakened by the light overcast.
In places, like the spot in the photo, there was a little light on the road, which struck me as this morning as a fine metaphor of how life works— a little light here and there. Not alway blazing brilliant light, but light all the same. And then the road curves in to the shadier spots.
The patches of light are exquisite— I love and appreciate them— their clear colour and beauty, but even in the shadier spots there are marvelous things to see: moss and mushrooms, lichens, winter wrens chattering and woodpeckers flitting. These treasures were certainly present today and interestingly, they were for the most part, in the darker, less glorious places.
Spending a few days in ‘town’ offers a chance to walk the paths along Mosquito Creek. The delight of these walks comes not only from the beauty alongside the tumbling creek-water, but the poignancy of recognizing these are likely last days before the green leaves the trees (so to speak). The sunlight shining through the still vibrant green is more precious perhaps because these days are so limited. But its not only the colour and light. For me its also their shadow patterns on the path — constantly shifting, and intriguing.
The photo above is one of my favourite points on the trail where it diverges around a grand moss-clothed maple. To the left it goes down to the creek itself. To the right, up to the road. The main trail is straight ahead, past the maple, following alongside the creek.
glimpses of the extraordinary amidst an ordinary day