Toward the opening of a screen adaptation of Austin’s novel, Persuasion, Mrs. Clay comments on dessert, Sorbet in September … how delightful. From across the table, Miss Elizabeth Elliot replies, Enjoy it, there‘ll be no more ice until the winter. I often wonder how my mind works for, as I lamented the departure of winter ice, that exchange played, and then played again, as she lead along the trail. Down, across, and back up. We repeated the sequence a number of times, and crossed several bridges. Some engineered and others cobbled of wood and of stone. A few formed from tree falls and others were absent altogether.
Has it moved, I asked.
No, it’s just ahead, she said. It wasn’t, and I knew it. If she had been less kind she would have said … Be patient and stop whining.
Although locally referred to as the Grand Canyon, the venue we sought was no less beautiful for being neither. I looked over the rim and saw that my earlier report of the demise of winter ice was premature. The forest canopy, not yet covered in its laced veil of spring green, invited the warm glow of afternoon light. Although the canyon was shallow, its walls were vertical and its span was narrow. Because sunlight would enter only briefly each day, the remnants of winter clung to everything out of the reach of the warm embrace of the coming season.
I put on my waders. She scouted ahead and suggested one spot in particular. It’s frosted. I descended. The lingering ice refrigerated the air and cold blanketed the watercourse. My shirt was wet with effort. I felt chill. I zipped my jacket and pulled the hat further down and around my ears. It was slow going. I stepped carefully. Moisture precipitated in solid form to cover everything in an invisible sheet. Cycles of freeze and thaw were revealed as innumerable encrustations, including stalagmites which stood in tidy gardens and away from the eroding effect of the adjacent flow.
I looked up to see her walking the rim. I hiked back.
Where are my boots?
In a stump, she said. I didn’t want them to walk off.
I doffed the waders and donned the boots. We reversed course and made for home.