On a morning such as this the predawn frost crystallizes on the trees ready to sparkle like a million diamonds under the rising sun. But the sun hasn’t quite managed to keep his appointment. Leaden clouds have layered most of the western sky stretching long dark fingers to the east, partially blocking the sun and creating the effect of bars across the fields. Now, instead of being a sparkling delight, the branches take on a surreal twilight texture reminiscent of a dream. All the world is still and quiet at this hour as the sun fights, only to lose to the cold grip of those fingers turning first into a fist, then into a blanket. There’s such a profound stillness surrounding me that I would swear I can hear or feel the water running through the earth beneath my feet.
I’m glad I rise early these days because dawn is often the only time the sun shows his face. In a few weeks we’ll see a lot more of old man sun, but in this season of twilight and dark it’s either his turn to rest or ours or both. With the snow off the fields for a few days, I have been able to stroll along the fence rows to check up on the seedling trees that we planted two years ago as part of a Wetlands Habitat project. Most have done well in the long grass in spite of last summer’s drought. The year offers few opportunities to see these little ones. As lovely as skiing over fields deep in snow can be, it doesn’t allow access to the seedlings and, once the grass begins growing again, it will soon hide them from the sun and from me. So January thaw does have its benefits, not to mention taking the horses for a walk. The last few days have made it possible to get the horses out of the barn yard for some exercise. We don’t have much time, though, before the driveway and road ice up once again.
Now winter has decided to return. Snow is in the air and in the forecast for the next few days. Soon I’ll be skiing again. But before I leave bare fields behind for the rest of the winter, I have one more praise to sing for January thaw.
Our ponds which almost dried up last summer, have filled to the brim. That is the level they should have reached last fall. The snow that we get from now on will create the spring excess that will serve gardens and fields until the end of June. In the months ahead, however, we must remember that this is not “throw away” water yet to come. It serves the fish spawning in our streams and amphibians hatching in the water soaked banks and wetlands. We need to prepare and maintain reservoirs of water when it comes in quantity so we don’t run dry when summer rains fail to keep up with our needs. Such reservoirs would serve those that want water off of their land as well as those that want to save it.
As I finish this piece, the temperature has dropped and the snow has arrived. Although there’s still open ice on the fields, I am skiing again. The dogs love playing in the sunshine as much as I do. For a moment, though, I have to stop to watch as the sun makes its majestic climb into a cloudless sky. How could anyone tire of such beauty, such spectacle. But, you know, as much as I love this moment, I can’t feel the water moving through the earth when I am on skis. I miss that. Well, I guess, “something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.” Thanks Joni. I think when I get back to the house I’ll build a snowman and have hot chocolate and a cookie. See you next time.