Archive for January, 2023

Jan 19 2023

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The Lake on a Grey Day

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For a change of pace, I drive out to Kill Kare State Park at the end of Hathaway Point to groove on water instead of tramping through woods. Saint Albans Bay is half full of punky ice, but its mouth is ice free. I leave my car at a turnout next to the gate even though the gate is wide open. This will extend my walk. I amble leisurely, hands-in-pocket, up the road and into the park.

I spook several mallard ducks swimming close to shore. There are more waterfowl farther offshore, but they are difficult to identify in the grey light. My binoculars are still resting on the counter back home.

Lake Champlain is placid beneath an overcast sky. In the park, the silhouettes of leafless trees are motionless in the still air, freeze-framed against the clouds. A thin layer of snow covers the ground. Patches of bare ground, bleached of color, poke through the snow in places. It’s a mild winter this year but winter all the same.

I’m alone in the park. Usually there would be ice fisherman here this time of year, going about their business. I meander about, stopping occasionally to take in the lake’s expanse and feel the damp chill in the air. Suddenly gulls call out from ice floes a hundred yards off the north shore. When they stop, I realize just how quiet it is here right now. Interaction with the natural world is funny that way.

This morning I finished writing an essay about the fear of death and the will to live. While walking about the park, I think about that and the many occasions I’ve been in this park in the past, either alone or with others. Time seems to stand still as I gaze across the glassy surface of the lake, but I know that’s not the case. I can hear myself breathing. My heart is still beating. It will beat a while longer, perhaps for another decade or two. And I’ll stand here once again, most likely, gazing across the lake on a grey day.

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Jan 05 2023

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A Sense of Perspective

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Yesterday I walked up one of my favorite brooks in the Green Mountains. No snow and temps in the high 30s. That’s rare for this time of year. How could I resist?

I went back as far as an old campsite where the ashes of my two dogs, Jesse and Matika, are buried. I cleaned off the simple stones marking their graves and talked to them for a while. Then I looked around, telling them with a great big sigh that I’d be joining them soon enough.

This year or the next, ten years from now, twenty, or more — my day will come. It’s just a matter of time. Life doesn’t last long. Not really.

I propped a foam pad against a nearby birch overlooking the stream and jotted a few thoughts in my field journal while eating lunch. The surrounding forest was misty and still. A few dried leaves clinging to the branches of a beech sapling quaked in a barely discernible breeze. The brook full of snowmelt roared loudly as it raced downhill. I thought about the many times I’ve been in this spot, overnight or only for an hour or so like now. I quickly lost track. Too many years have gone by.

I glanced at the small overhang in a large boulder just a few feet away and resolved to spend a night under it someday, just for the hell of it. That would be wild. Then I gave that boulder a long hard look, wondering how long it has been here. Probably since the last Ice Age. And when my ashes are in the ground, along with my dogs, that boulder will still be here.

That boulder will still be here thousands of years from now. The landscape around it will change, but that boulder will remain largely unchanged until the roots of the vegetation on top of it break it down, along with the elements. That’ll take a while. I’ll be long gone by the time that boulder is dust. Hmm… While considering that, I packed up my things and walked away.

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