We spent the morning doing what we were supposed to; feeding and watering animals, laundry, and paperwork. By mid-afternoon we felt the need to stretch our legs. Because of the late hour we drove to a nearby park. Darcy was along. When we arrived, he and Joanna made their way along the snowy walking path. I took to the stream. As I readied my camera I realized the park was so deeply set among the surrounding hills that the sun would be gone in minutes. I walked quickly to a place where light still shone into the shallows. I felt hurried, but what else could I do? The image here is one of a very few I managed before relative darkness descended. I can see in it what it felt like to be there, in the water, at that moment. It was dark, because the sun was low and just about to fall below the hills to the west. Lingering, shafts of light illuminated the creek bottom, when they were not obscured by passing clouds. I was standing in a particularly deep spot and the water was up, so I leaned into the flow to steady myself. The water was well above the knees and I learned that nylon transmits the cold very well for when I stepped my socked feet into my waders, the narrow uppers of the boots forced my jeans up, to, and even a little above the knees. The temperature was a mixed blessing for cold water seems to accentuate the bits of color which remain, over winter, in the creek. Greens, oranges, and hints of yellow glowed from beneath the surface of the moving fluid. Although the effect can’t be captured in an image such as this, the colors seemed to shift, kaleidoscopically, as water and sunlight interacted. Swirls and eddies mingled to produce the mesmerizing effect. It was quiet and I cannot recall the sound of the moving fluid. Perhaps I was so caught up in my own thoughts that little else could intrude. Isn’t it funny that I was, however, very much aware of the soft slap of the mirror, as it responded to the first click of my remote, and even the more subtle click of the shutter curtains as they moved across the sensor. A piece I heard on the Allegheny Front this morning reminded me that
2012 had marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring. The people who were interviewed for the broadcast had made a documentary film of Carson’s life and when they spoke they made special note of the degree to which Carson was aware of the complexities of all environments. They noted that she was somehow innately aware that the introduction of environmental toxins would not, could not, be without consequence. And, thank goodness that she was so visionary in her understanding for, without it, environmentalism may have waited even longer for its birth as a social movement. And, so it is, with Carson’s deep understanding of the complexities of all environments in mind, that I ask you to consider whether this colorful creek bottom is, in fact, all that silent. Does it, as quick observation may suggest, lay dormant during winter? No. It cannot. For this place is home to an array of organisms that will emerge and flourish come early spring. Insects, crustaceans, and vertebrates to be sure. But also molluscs, annelids, and nematodes; and very tiny creatures as well such as the protists, bacteria, cyanobacteria, diatoms, and fungi. They all will flourish and therefore must be there now. Waiting. Patiently. Although the photo may be suggestive of a sterile place, this is certainly not so. It is a vibrant place, to be sure. One simply has to sense that which is unseen. Much like Rachel Carson was able to … more than 50 years ago.