Vantage

By Pennsylvania standards, we had some very cold nights early in the week. By the local Vermont standard, I suppose the real cold is yet to come. In any event, the chilly weather has required that we have the wood stove running and, although I have a small reserve in the basement, that has required frequent trips to our pile of cord wood. Yesterday, while getting wood in, I heard Joanna call. She had obtained a copy of Mark Elbroch’s book, Mammal Tracks & Sign: A Guide to North American Species, and was searching the woods for evidences of animal visitation. Bring your camera with the snow-and-ice lens, she said. I set down the wheelbarrow and, because I didn’t know what she meant by the snow-and-ice lens, got my full camera pack and headed in her direction. She said, It’s up here, the sun was on it earlier, I hope it hasn’t gone away. There is a small stream which meanders through our place. It originates, to the west, as a swampy spot. It wanders and then joins with other small tributaries to form Charles Brown Brook. We are unaccustomed to perennial water flow at our place. There were two ponds at Pairodox, one was up the hill and fed by mountain springs, while the other was in the hay field and filled only when we had rain enough to do so. The run had water in it some of the time but slowed to a trickle in dry weather. We are certain that our new stream is perennial and we like to know that there will always be water feeding the pond and the animals which depend on it. Although the watercourse is now iced over, I know there is water flowing because I can see bubbles and rivulets where the covering has been thinned by the warmth of the sun which penetrates gaps in the canopy above. Look, she said. I was delighted by the delicate ice formations that spread out before me. My immediate reaction was to step out onto the slippery surface, and I did. I immediately fell through the thin layer and into water which was, thankfully, just below the upper most part of my boot. Any ice that wasn’t fractured by the event was drowned by the ensuing seiche. I had destroyed my subject. What was I to do? I couldn’t photograph the tiny formations from the side. I needed to be directly above them. I placed my feet on a shallow bank at a particularly narrow part of the watercourse. I shifted all of my weight to my left leg, lifted the right leg, and pushed off with the left such that my right foot landed firmly on the other side of the stream. There I was, straddling the stream bed. A perfect vantage. I suppose Joanna had a good laugh as I waddled down stream, but no matter I think I got some nice shots. Although I have seen ice terracing before (though none so exquisite as I was lucky to see on this day) I have never observed the sort of lacy patterning you can see in the left photo, in the middle. Beautiful and unplanned, nature at its best.

Ice6

Ice2

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