Thursday, March 14, 2013

“The wind begins to play”

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As I drove home from a meeting yesterday, of course I took a slightly scenic route, checking all the ponds and wet areas for migrating waterfowl. (I found a few, but nothing of note yet, except for two Common Loons on the big reservoir. I no longer have time or means to bird as much as I would like, and I’m sure I’m missing a lot.)

As winter melts into spring, I never fail to experience a frisson of anticipation at the sight of the ice “going out” from the ponds and lakes.

Over the days and weeks, the ice loses its blue-white color, taking on a grayish cast as it becomes more porous and the darkness of the water below casts a sort of upside-down shadow.

During the winter months, the wind over the frozen surface of the lake had been invisible. Now, as the water opens up, we see the wind again, ruffling the black surface.

Thoreau noticed this, too, and in his characteristic way, found a metaphor:
No sooner has the ice of Walden melted than the wind begins to play in dark ripples over the surface of the virgin water. It is affecting to see nature so tender, however old, and wearing none of the wrinkles of age. Ice dissolved is [in] the next moment as perfect water as if it had been melted a million years. To see that which was lately so hard and immovable now so soft and impressible! What if our moods could dissolve thus completely? It is like a flush of life to a cheek that was dead.
—From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), March 14, 1860.

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