Land Journal: November 2011

Every morning when I am at home I get up shortly before sunrise and spend a little while outside, watching the sun come up and the new day come alive. I walk the 400 feet up to a small pond and go for a swim. When I get back inside I write in what I call my "Pond Journal" a little about what I saw, heard and felt. I decided to put that journal up here to share with a wider world what I have written since I see this, like photograpy, as a way of bringing back a record of my observations of the natural world.

On August 26 I moved from Worthington, Massachusetts to Foster, Rhode Island. I continue to write but my writing has taken a different direction, less condusive to daily posts. So, for now I am closing the Pond Journal, leaving it as a story of my time in Worthington. Stay tuned for new directions in the future.

November 23, 2011:

A coating of sleet fell last night and a cold, gentle rain is falling now. While the air is cold the contrast between the white of the sleet and the browns and greens of the woods and fields is beautiful. The wet trees and leaves are glowing with warmth and color. Much of the landscape is a study in brown now, from the rusty brown of the beech leaves to the straw brown of dead grasses to the much darker brown of dead flower stalks, and the glowing red of the blueberry bushes; but all of the browns have a warmth and softness to them. The river down in the valley is less soft. Something like two inches of rain fell last night and I can hear the river raging and roaring.

November 22, 2011:

The air is cold and still this morning and the sky overhead is gray, with just a few brighter spots. The stillness allows the bird calls to carry across the landscape. There seem to be birds everywhere this morning. The bluejays are especially raucous. The woods are taking on more and more of their winter colors: the infinite variety of shades of rust and ochre and tan and gray and brown, mixed in with the deep, dark green of the confers. The lack of leaves also makes the woods much more open. You can see much further through the woods than in the summer and see small details of the land that are hidden by summer's greenery.

November 21, 2011:

Some of the trees below the pond have become this morning's gathering place for a flock of small birds, maybe some variety of sparrow. There is endless activity as they fly from branch to branch and tree to tree, sometimes singly, sometimes two - often one chasing another - and sometimes in whole groups that weave amongst each other as they move across the sky. The beech leaves have curled up, some so much they have wrapped all the way around to form cocoon-like structures. There is a crescent moon high in the sky, slowly fading as the day gets brighter. Sometimes it gets lost in the clouds and then re-appears. I have to look carefully to find its faint reflection in the pond.

November 17, 2011:

There is a cold breeze flowing across the landscape this morning. Feeling it flowing around my body and across my skin makes me feel more alive and connected to the world, just as the pond water does. The sky is what I would call "November gray" and the ground is slippery after yesterday's rain.

November 16, 2011:

A still, gray morning. The clouds overhead initially look to be an unbroken roof of gray, but then I notice clear sky off to the north, and as the day gets brighter I lots of small gaps in the clouds overhead reveal blue sky beyond. The clouds are moving slowly; sliding across the sky from west to east, but I cannot feel even a hint of a breeze down here at ground level. However, looking across the pond, every once in while the dead cattails sway ever so slightly, and the surface of the pond, which initially looks to be completely still, is always slightly in motion. There is a sort of shimmering effect that gives a slight movement to the reflections, and small circles radiate out from some small creatures that are disturbing the surface. Watching the reflection of two crows flying by it looks like the crows in the pond inhabit some other world and the pond is the window into that world, a place similar to our own but also mysterious and different in unknown ways.

November 15, 2011:

Occasional warm, gentle breezes slip across the landscape this morning, adding sound and movement to the morning. The dead oak leaves make a dry, crisp sort of noise. The pines make a very different, much softer, peaceful sort of noise. The wind sliding across my body reminds me that when not swimming in water we are swimming in a sea of air. There are complex layers of clouds overhead but also enough clear sky so the three-quarter, waning moon is visible just above the trees to the west as I swim in the pond. Standing on the end of the dock looking down at the clouds reflected in the pond, I feel like I am getting ready to dive into the sky.

November 14, 2011:

On my way to the pond this morning I watched three crows fly across the field. The first crow looped back around, apparently to check out something in the field, and then continued north with the other two, to the big maples by the blueberry field. Scattered across the sky are clusters of puffy white clouds, classic "sheep" clouds. One large flock is moving across the pond, both in the sky and reflected in the water. Floating on my back I can follow along with them but I don't last very long because the water is too cold so I mostly watch them from the end of the dock. Only a few of the beech leaves have any yellow left in them. Most are now closer in color to the rich brown oak leaves.

November 13, 2011:

Waiting to see the sun rise I had to wait a bit longer than I expected because the clouds on the eastern horizon were denser than they appeared to be, so I had to wait for the sun to climb above not just the far hillside but also the cloud bank. More time to listen to the birds. The rising sun also reveals that what had looked to be a clear sky overhead is a blue sky streaked with wispy cirrus clouds, speaking of a change in the weather on the way. Reflected in the pond, the cirrus clouds look like someone has taken a big paintbrush with just a bit of white paint on it and dragged it across the blue-black surface of the pond. The view is framed by the deep black reflection of the bare trees, their fine branches somehow more visible in the reflection than when seen directly. Swimming across the pond I can see my breath in front of me. The hammering of a woodpecker carries across the land.

November 12, 2011:

Waiting to see the sun rise, listening to the sounds all around: the rustling of small creatures in the dead leaves; birds flying and calling and hopping through the trees and bushes; and far away the rumble of a freight train going by miles away down the valley in Huntington. Then the sun comes up, glowing brilliant orange in the clear morning sky as it rises above the ridge to the east. To the west the just past full moon is setting over the now sunlit trees. The oak leaves that seemed so dark and brooding yesterday are glowing almost as if lit from within this morning. At the pond something is upsetting a red squirrel (chipmunk?) and setting him to making his usual racket down at the end of the pond. Then another takes over for a while on the other side of the pond and then a crow takes over from both of them! Then the crow quiets down leaving the morning once again to the small birds. So often we just lump their sounds together and talk about it as chipping or tweeting but those words seem totally inadequate to describe the many variations they achieve, often with just one or two notes. The lily pads are gone but there stems are not. They still wind and curl towards the surface of the pond like curly, disheveled hair. The pond water is cold but energizing to feel sliding past my body. The frost-hardened grass crunches under foot as I walk back to the house.

November 11, 2011:

At the time of sunrise the eastern horizon is filled with a dense wall of gray clouds. I think it is foggy down in the valley this morning. Above that is a layer of tiny, closely spaced, puffy clouds, bright white in the first light of day, and above that is a single bird flying high across a clear, slate blue sky. Once the sun climbs above the layers of clouds it will be a sunny morning, but it will take some time to get there. The air and the forest feel more like November this morning. There is a gentle but cold breeze blowing across the field and the pond and aside from the beeches and a few oaks most of the trees have been stripped completely bare of every single one of their leaves. The beeches still hold onto their leaves, as they will all winter, but with each passing day the leaves seem less yellow and more brown. The oak leaves are an even darker rusty, burgundy brown. Low down, the elderberry leaves are still golden yellow. One of the few hints of bright color left as the woods shift to the more subtle color palette of winter.

November 10, 2011:

When I first looked out this morning mist filled the field and the sky above was gray with fog, but by a little after sunrise the situation had gotten much more complicated. Fog was still all around but overhead it had given way and above were multiple layers of stranded clouds with blue sky beyond. The disc of the sun shining through the clouds was sharply defined by so dimmed by the fog that you could look straight at it quite comfortably. Denser strands of dark clouds were steaming by in front of the sun creating an ever changing pattern. Closer in, the tilted stalks of the dead sunflowers are silhouetted dark and hard against the misty trees beyond. One sunflower provides a temporary perch for a bluejay to land on while making his raucous cry. The woods feel browner this morning but it is a warm brown, enhanced by the soft light of the fog and the absurdly warm air for mid-November. Even the pond has warmed up a bit from a few days ago. By an hour after sunrise any hint of the sun and any hint of blue above is gone as fog once again takes over, leaving a few closer trees silhouetted dark against the grayer mist-shrouded trees beyond.

November 9, 2011:

There is a low mist hanging over the field this morning, which the newly risen sun fills with a golden glow, sending "God beams" straight towards me as I walk to the pond. The water in the pond has become much, much clearer than it was a month or two ago. Then the bottom was completely invisible in three feet of water; now I can see every detail as I stand on the end of the dock. There seem to be birds calling everywhere this morning, from the raucous calls of the crows to the gentler sounds of small birds all through the woods and field, to our rooster proudly proclaiming whatever it is that roosters proudly proclaim!

November 8, 2011:

It isn't warm out this morning but it is far from cold. I watched the sun send its first rays over the horizon, first peeking through the trees on the far hillside and then rising up as a great golden ball. Shortly after sunrise a huge flock of birds, probably grackles, streamed up out of the valley and filled the big maples down beyond the house, flooding the fields and woods with a cacophony of noise, and then, just as suddenly the all flew off over the hill. From a distance the leaves of the beeches look more rusty brown but close up there is still lots of yellow and even still some hints of green.

November 7, 2011:

Much of the snow from last week's snowstorm has melted but this morning the grass is white with frost and crunchy underfoot. The pond is also ice free (but still very cold!). Many of the lily pads have sunken down, ready to fertilize next year's lily pads that will grow back up to the surface come spring. The morning sun is lighting up the bare tree branches, making their reflection in the pond especially beautiful. Small songbirds are flying from branch to branch and tree to tree, probably looking for food after a cold night.

November 2, 2011:

Even thought more snow melted yesterday and there is less ice on the pond today, this morning feels more winter-like than the previous mornings have. The sky is cold and clear and there are long spikes of frost covering what is left of the summer's \"weeds.\" Almost all of the trees down the east side of the pond are bare of leaves but there is still a warm glow along the west side from the stand of beech trees. The sky low in the east is a warm yellow as the sun prepares to rise but overhead it is cold and blue.

November 1, 2011:

The rusty yellow leaves of the beeches against the white of the snow is glorious. Fall mixed with winter. Most of the ice is gone from the pond but there is still some down at the south end and near the shore in other places. The water feels bitingly but also thrillingly cold on my skin. It is beautiful seeing the reflection of the beach leaves in the water in one direction and in the other direction the reflection of the fine tracery of bare branches of the leafless trees at the north end of the pond. The sky is covered with low clouds but the sun occasionally peeks through as a glowing patch of light amidst the gray.

Go to October 2011