Land Journal: February 2012

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.

February 29, 2012: Gathering Storm

At sunrise long linear streaky gray clouds were radiating out from the eastern horizon, in some case stretching all the way across the sky. Small puffy and wispy white clouds floated above and there was blue sky beyond. The sun rose up out the clouds to shine briefly though a gap and then vanished back into the thickening clouds above. By the time I came back inside, about 40 minutes after sunrise, the gray clouds had taken over and filled the sky, forming a lowering ceiling of gray; no longer streaky or linear; just sky-filling gray. There is no wind at all this morning but the clouds are changing quickly; weather is moving in. There are birds calling all around including some very noisy crows that keep flying back and forth across the field and a red-winged blackbird that is calling repeatedly near the still quite frozen pond. Just before sunrise a large flock of small birds flew across the eastern sky; they were strung out in a long line but a line formed by being side by side rather than one behind the other. There was 3/8 inch of fresh ice over my hole in the pond but the ice over the rest of the pond does seem to be getting a bit thinner. It is still a number of inches thick and very solid but it is ever so slowly giving way to spring. A bit more winter may be on the way though before spring really gets here.

February 28, 2012: Storm Lighting

Low, gray clouds overhead but clearer skies off to the east are creating what I think of as “storm lighting” this morning: a warm yellowish glow on the trees that contrasts dramatically with the dark gray clouds beyond. The light comes and goes as the sun slips in and out of the clouds; clouds that are racing across the sky under the influence of a northwest wind flying across the hilltop and setting everything in motion. The birds are mostly staying hidden this morning but I see two birds struggling to make headway towards the west, flying into the face of the wind. At the pond there is only an eighth of an inch of new ice over the hole, just about the thickness of a piece of window glass, except where it is all knobby and bumpy on the underside from the bits of ice from yesterday that got frozen into the new ice. The forest floor is relatively clear of snow and feels slightly soft underfoot, and while the morning sun is still not quite reaching the dock I can walk barefoot a dozen or see feet south of the dock and stand in the sun!

February 27, 2012: Sunrise

Clear blue sky overhead. Just a few small, scattered clouds down near the eastern horizon but not enough to hide the sun as it slipped up over the horizon. Down in a low spot on the horizon between two trees a tiny spot suddenly started to glow and then grew bigger moment by moment until the curve of the top of the sun was visible. Then, as the earth slowly rotated, more and more came up over the horizon, the sunlight sparkling on the snow that fell over the weekend, until the full brilliant circle of the sun was floating in the morning sky. Birds calling all around, including, I think, a red-winged blackbird or a flock of red-winged blackbirds – the first of the spring! At the pond, since I was away yesterday, something like an inch and a half of ice had formed over my hole. After chopping around the edge it came out as a big disc of ice, leaving just some bits of broken ice floating in the black circle of water. After climbing out of the hole I looked back at it and the black water was gently moving; the motion striking amidst the stillness of the surrounding ice.

February 25, 2012: Wind!

Wind roaring through the trees with a sound like a mighty waterfall. Bare tree branches and indeed whole trees waving back and forth against the sky. Small pink clouds racing by, overhead. A crow trying to fly across the field and getting blown back; trying again lower down and succeeding and then landing high in the wind-tossed braches of a tree. Dense dark clouds along the eastern horizon, edged in golden orange and then white as the sun comes up behind them; peaking through at times before rising up above the clouds into the clear blue sky. The ground is crunchy underfoot from the snow, rain and freezing rain that fell yesterday; the tree branches shine in the morning light like they are made or fine strands of glass. A quarter inch of fresh ice covers the hole in the pond. It shines too when held up in the light.

February 24, 2012: Snow

It’s snowing steadily this morning. Not much snow has accumulated yet but if it keeps up and does not turn to rain we could get a fair amount. Most likely it will turn to rain. The flakes are small and falling straight down in the still air. No swirling and whirling for these flakes. The veil of falling snow in front of the dark line of trees is quite beautiful. Every flat surface in the forest is slowly turning white: the hemlock boughs, the old logs lying on the ground, the stone wall, and the leaves on the forest floor. The snow makes a slight sighing sound as it lands. The pond was already white except for my hole, but this morning even that is white as the snow has covered over the quarter inch of ice that had formed during the night. The birds were slow to make themselves heard this morning. At first just a few crows were doing their best to fill the air with noise. Then most of the crows flew off to the north and slowly other birds started to speak up, but never as many as on the recent warmer mornings. Winter is back, at least for a little while. It is still February after all.

February 23, 2012: Spring Rain

There’s been lots of what the weather forecasters like to call mixed precipitation this winter, but this morning feels like the first time since last fall that I’ve felt and heard genuine, regular rain. It is just a passing shower but it is more than yesterday’s heavy mist, and very different from the winter sleet and snow and freezing rain; another sign of the arrival of spring! The birds seem to like it too as their calls overlap on top of each other in a flood of sound. Most of the sky overhead is an unusually uniform ceiling of gray but right down close the eastern horizon there is a band of more broken clouds that glows a golden yellow as the sun comes up. The full disc of the sun is never quite visible but there is no question about the position of the sun as it glows brightly through the clouds, at least for the few minutes while it is moving across the golden band, until it vanishes into the thicker clouds above. At the pond there is less than 1/8 inch of ice over the hole, but I am surprised to find even that much given that the air temperature has not been below freezing in over 24 hours. It is complicated ice with lots of thicker patches and odd bits frozen onto the bottom; the remnants of the ice left floating in the hole yesterday morning. The pile of broken ice chunks next to the hole – the ice I have pulled out of the hole in past mornings – has transformed from slabs of ice into small shards of ice; a result of the warm sun shining on it. About an hour after sunrise the gray clouds overhead suddenly break up and melt away, leaving large patches of blue sky. There are still some thicker clouds in the east but the sun climbs above these clouds and shines down brightly on the land below.

February 22, 2012: Snow, Rain and Sun

A dusting of snow fell yesterday evening; just enough to turn the ground a bit white in the areas where the grass is short. This morning, just after sunrise it started raining very lightly; at first just a fine mist falling and then a little more: enough to patter lightly on the dead leaves in the forest. The new snow will not last long if that keeps up. Before sunrise the sky looked to be a nearly uniform gray, with just a few lighter patches. The rising sun, even thought it was hidden in the clouds, revealed more texture in the sky: some small, darker clouds drifting by below the main layer of clouds and some larger patches that actually looked a bit blue. Sure enough, 45 minutes after sunrise the sun has climbed up above the clouds and is shining brightly in a mostly clear blue sky with some puffy white clouds floating by! At the pond there was a bit less than a quarter inch of new ice over the hole, except it was much thicker in places where bits of ice left floating in the hole yesterday got frozen into the new ice. Pieces of ice that I know were sharp and angular yesterday became rounded and soft today after spending 24 hours sitting in the water. Just as in so many other ways, the water rounds off the sharp edges of the ice.

February 21, 2012: Cold Morning

At first the sky looked quite clear this morning except down near the horizon and then as it got lighter I realized that there was a thin veil of high clouds across large parts of the sky. In some places the sky still looked quite blue, especially right overhead, where at one point it was a deep, rich blue, but large areas were more whitish-blue. Down along the eastern horizon the clouds were a bit thicker and more clearly visible. The place where the sun was about to rise was clearly marked by the clouds there getting brighter and brighter. On clear days there is no warning before the sun slips above the horizon but not today. This morning, even though the sun was shining through some clouds, I could still see the moment when the edge of the sun came over the horizon. As the sun rose it quickly became too bright to look at, despite the clouds, and it still cast a warm glow across the land, sparkling on the fresh frost and lighting up the birch trees near the path to the pond. There was not a hint of wind this morning. Even the tallest and thinnest of dead plant stalks was completely motionless. It was cold last night and as a result there was a full inch of ice over the hole in the pond. I got most of it out in one piece but there were lots of small bits left floating in the hole for me to touch and turn and look through as I was taking my dip. Each piece had its own shape and its own beautiful internal pattern of cracks and crystal boundaries and bubbles: jewels to be appreciated today before they are melted by the sun or re-incorporated into a new layer of ice by the cold.

February 20, 2012: Black and White

A colder morning than we’ve had the last few days, with just a bit of northwest wind blowing. Every once in a while the wind blows just hard enough to set the dead plant stalks into motion or even make a bit of whispering sigh as it moves through the pine trees. Wispy clouds are reaching up from the south and denser clouds fill the sky down close to the eastern horizon. The rising of the sun this morning was marked by a glowing patch moving slowly up through the clouds, creeping upwards towards the clearer sky higher up. At the pond there was 3/4 inch of fresh ice over the hole. A number of large bubbles were frozen into the new ice: whitish circles ranging in size from half and inch to an inch or two across, scattered across the ice like pale round stones arranged on a bed of black. The contrast between the clear crystalline ice and the deep black water is striking. It is the same water, but as ice it is wonderfully transparent and light, while as liquid water it is a wonderfully deep and dark and black: a mysterious black hole in the white, snow covered pond.

February 19, 2012: Peaceful Morning...

The morning started out feeling very peaceful: not a breath of wind; the crescent moon, now not far from the sun, fading out as the day gets lighter; the sun coming up into clear blue cloudless sky; and the landscape white with a dusting of snow that feel last night, glittering in the morning sun. Then more and more small birds started showing up and adding a more frenetic energy to the day. The cedar waxwings and juncos are once again eating the red berries in the hawthorn tree, their wing noise alone loud in the morning air as they go from branch to branch. A flock of sparrows chatters vociferously over closer to the barn, and all around countless other birds are calling; filling the morning air with sound. At the pond there was a little more than ¼ inch of fresh ice over the hole. The surface of the pond is white with the new-fallen snow. The sun is almost back far enough north to let the newly risen sun shine on the spot were I swim.

February 18, 2012: Dawn

Up early, in time to catch what is without doubt the most beautiful part of the day. In the west the last stars are slowly fading out. The crescent moon is low in the southern sky, above the dark line of pine trees. The sky to the north, near the horizon, is just slightly tinted with purple. And low down along the eastern horizon, just above the far hill, the sky is brilliant orange, fading to pale yellow a bit above the horizon and then ever so slowly fading to dusky blue overhead. At first just one bird calls, over and over again. Then, slowly, other birds start to join in and the dawn chorus builds. At the pond there is 3/8 inch of fresh, clear ice over the hole. As the sun comes up in all its glowing glory, the sky overhead is an almost impossible shade of cerulean blue.

February 17, 2012: Slush

A little wet snow fell yesterday; just enough to mostly cover the grass, but now it is above freezing and as I step outside I am greeting but the sound of water dripping off the trees. The new and old snow is wet and slushy underfoot. Low clouds are sliding slowly across sky and a very light rain or maybe just a heavy mist is falling. Every once in a long while there is a gap in the clouds that reveals what might be blue sky beyond, but for the most part the sky is a study in grays: from light pale gray to dark dense heavy gray, and everything in-between. Later, as I am heading back inside a larger patch of definitely blue sky slides by, and now, looking out the window, various cloud edges are glowing white in the sun that itself is not visible but is clearly not hidden behind too many layers of clouds. In the woods, the wet beech leaves are glowing more vibrantly than they have in a long time, the moisture having brought out their color. The hole in the ice at the pond is not so much frozen over as slushed over: a half inch of slush floats on top of the water. It gives under gentle pressure from my hand, deforming as a sheet rather like soaking wet felt, but I can also poke my finger right through it. A stand of saplings near the pond has so many water droplets hanging on all the small branches that the whole stand has a silvery glow to it.

February 16, 2012: Layered Clouds

Off to the east the sky is painted with high, wispy cirrus clouds. Off to the west are much lower, denser, more amorphous clouds that are spreading across much of the sky. The lower clouds feel like they may burn off as the day warms up but the cirrus clouds presage “weather” on the way. In the meantime, as the sun rises it casts a warm glow under the clouds; across the landscape. The remaining snow sparkles in the light as does the frost on the grass and weeds, until the sun climbs up into denser clouds that mute its light. At the pond there is about 3/8 inch of fresh ice over my hole. Looking at a broken piece of ice on edge, there are long, thin linear air bubbles coming in from one side that are all about the same length and go maybe 1/3 of the way through the ice. It looks like a dense growth of white grass within the ice, or a dense crowd of tiny people standing upright in the ice. Another giant water bug appeared in the hole this morning and then slid away under the thicker ice.

February 15, 2012: Dissolving Mist

A little snow fell last night but far from enough to really cover the grass in the field that is otherwise becoming more and more clear of old snow. There are birds calling in all directions all at once this morning. Some keep up a steady, repetitive, single-note call, while others just chime in occasionally with their particular note. Looking up at what I had thought was a completely cloudy sky I suddenly see the half moon shining down, clear and bright, and then after a few moments it is gone again, only to reappear a minute later and then disappear again after shining for a bit longer. Evidently there is a thin veil of mist overhead that comes and goes and has thicker and thinner patches that are not perceivable except when the moon suddenly shines though the thinner patches. As it gets lighter out the mist dissolves and a largely clear blue sky is revealed. At the pond there is at most a quarter inch of new ice over the hole. It is the middle of February and it feels like it is not really winter any longer but not quite spring yet either.

February 14, 2012: Subdued Morning

Cloudy mornings feel more subdued than clear mornings. There isn’t the drama of the blazing sun suddenly appearing on the horizon and climbing up into a clear blue sky, but the birds don’t seem to mind the cloudy weather as there are birds calling all around. They are probably happy that it is not as cold this morning as it has been the last couple of mornings. In some ways there is also more to look at overhead when it is cloudy. It is rare for the clouds to be completely uniform, and this morning is no exception. While it is gray overhead from horizon to horizon there are subtle variations in the gray and occasional lighter spots that drift slowly across the sky from west to east. Every once in a while one of these lighter spots finds the sun, which glows fuzzily through the clouds until thicker clouds come back to hide it. At the pond there is about 3/4 inch of fresh ice over the hole, so it hasn’t been all that warm!

February 13, 2012: Big Soft Snowflakes

It’s snowing lightly, big soft flakes swirling gently down against the dark background of the forest. There is a certain thrill to looking up and seeing the snowflakes coming straight down at me. A few land on my face but most go racing by. While all of the flakes are headed in the same general direction, each has its own motion so in combination they create an every changing dance of organized chaos. At the edge of the forest it feels like the flakes are snaking down between the trees. Deeper into the forest very few flakes find their way down through the dense canopy of hemlocks except where a gap in the trees allows a some to slip through. A few scattered crows fly across the field, one by one or in small groups of two or three, all but one heading west; the one making a beeline east. At the pond there is a full inch and a half of fresh ice over the hole, a measure of how cold it was yesterday! Just as I am heading back inside the sun briefly peeks through a hole in the clouds, a soft-edged glowing disc for a few moments and then it is swallowed up again by the clouds. The snow keeps falling.

February 12, 2012: A Cold Winter Day Begins

A northwest wind has drawn some cold but wonderfully clear air down across the land. The sky overhead is a deep rich blue and no clouds interpose as my eyes as travel the slow transition from blue overhead to pale golden yellow at the eastern horizon. Waiting for the sun to rise there are also very few sounds other than the wind rushing through the trees. There is an occasional creaking and knocking of cold bare tree branches, but there are very few birds calling, at least until sunrise. Then, as the sun is climbing over the horizon, a couple of crows show up and a red squirrel starts chattering and the morning begins. Just after sunrise some high cirrus clouds start drifting in from the west too, spreading across the sky, but walking to the pond it is still clear overhead when I look up and see the bare white branches of a birch tree lit up by the morning sun, set against the intense blue of the winter sky. There is over an inch of new ice in the hole in the pond and fresh ice starts forming as soon as I have cleared the hole. I can poke my finger through the new ice and then lift it back up from underneath and get ever so thin crystals of ice on my fingertip. A cold winter day begins.

February 11, 2012: Snow

It’s snowing, not heavily but steadily; fine flakes falling gently down from the gray clouds overhead. Not enough snow has fallen yet to cover the grass but it is turning paler. Every tree branch is picked out in white, which subtly but beautifully changes the look of the forest. The texture of the trees becomes more visible: the soft dropping boughs of the hemlocks and pines, the long sweeping branches of the maples, and the sharper, more angular branches of the small fruit trees. At the pond, there is only about a quarter inch of fresh ice over my hole. After breaking up the ice a long stick-like insect turns up in the hole, moving very slowly amongst the broken ice. Checking online back at the house it appears to be a water scorpion. Life continues under the ice. The birds are quieter this morning. I expect they are tucked away in the trees more, waiting out the snow; but one flock of small birds flies overhead and then turns back and lands close together high up in the bare branches of a tall tree. Well after sunrise the sun peaks through the clouds: a bright, glowing patch amidst a sea of gray. It comes and goes as heavier clouds slide past. Sometimes just half the sun peaks over the edge of a denser, dark cloud but once it moves away from the sun the cloud blends right back into the rest of the gray sky. So the sun, like the snow, helps to make the texture of the world more visible.

February 10, 2012: Moonset

We have reached that beautiful time in the lunar cycle when the moon is setting in the west just as the sun is getting ready to rise in the east. The bare tree branches reach up to the clear, bright, crisp moon, calling it down to the horizon to continue its journey around the world. It’s another clear day and the blue sky overhead seems to go on forever. There are just a few clouds down along the eastern horizon that the sun has to rise through them to reach the clear sky. On the way, it lights up the clouds from behind with a golden light. In the meantime, the air is filled with bird calls and the drumming of woodpeckers. Most of the drumming is fast and light, and sounds like hairy or downy woodpeckers. One woodpecker’s drum is slower and deeper and much more powerful. On my way to the pond I see its author: a big pileated woodpecker high in one of the maple trees. There is almost an inch of fresh ice on my hole in the pond. It is still winter.

February 9, 2012: Wind and Waxwings

The northwest wind comes and goes this morning. Sometimes it is blowing where I am, sliding over my skin and shaking the dry brittle stalks of the long dead weeds nearby. At other times it is calm by me but I can hear it off in the distance in one direction or another, flowing through the trees. When it is nearby it sets the bare tree branches to swaying against the sky. A whole flock of cedar waxwings settles quietly in the hawthorn tree near me that is filled with deep red berries, and sets to eating the berries. The pale yellow plumage of the birds is lit up beautifully by the rising sun. The birds and the berries are set against a deep blue sky: yellow and red against blue. A flock of juncos joins the waxwings in the trees and all around on the ground and then a robin turns up, his red breast resplendent in the sun. At the pond there is around 5/8 inch of fresh ice over my hole. One large piece that I pull out is filled with tracery of cracks. The linear cracks contrast with the circles left by bubbles of air that were trapped under the ice.

February 8, 2012: Feathery Clouds

When I stepped outside this morning the whole eastern sky was filled with feathery bright pink clouds radiating out from the eastern horizon. Slowly the pink faded away and the clouds down close to the horizon turned peach and then yellow. The yellow grew brighter but more concentrated until it got so bright that I realized I was looking at the sun shining through the clouds, rising over the trees on the horizon, the edges of the sun just visible through the clouds but quickly getting too bright too look at. The patches of snow on the field look like puffy white clouds spread across a grassy sky. There are lots of different birds calling all around this morning but it feels relatively subdued because it is individual birds calling here and there rather than a cluster of birds in one area all chattering together. A small flock of birds flew quietly overhead, the flock spreading and coming together as it flew, like some greater creature breathing in and out. At the pond there was about three quarters of an inch of fresh ice over my hole. The ice on the pond looks almost smooth enough to skate on again.

February 7, 2012: Light

In large parts of the field there is now more grass than snow. A brisk north-northwest wind shakes the dead grass and stubble and sends low gray clouds sliding across the sky. The sun was hidden by the clouds at sunrise, but the very edges of a few clouds were picked out in orange, glowing with the intensity of coals in a fire. Larger areas turn a pale peach-pink, including a big patch right overhead that startled me when I first looked up and saw it amidst the sea of gray clouds. Slowly the peach faded to white as the sun came up beyond the clouds. At the pond there was only ¼ inch of new ice over my hole. The broken chunks of ice tinkled gently as I got in and out of the water.

February 6, 2012: Peaceful Morning

Beautiful pink and orange clouds fading to deep purple before turning white as the sun came up over the ridge. The sunrise has shifted north far enough that I can now start to see it again from a spot where I have a clearer view of the horizon, where I am not looking through lots of trees. There is just a gentle northwest wind blowing and it feels like a very peaceful morning except when the birds get excited and start calling more frenetically, chattering back and forth; but that fades away relatively quickly and they got back to their normal, gentler notes. At the pond there is once again just a bit less than an inch of fresh ice on my hole. A giant water bug (yes, that is the name) came to the surface of my hole after I cleared the ice out. I gently pushed him back under the ice from behind before getting into the water. Coming back from the pond I noticed a flock of birds sending down a rain of cones from the top of a large hemlock.

February 5, 2012: Clear, Cold and Still

Clear and cold and still, but hardly quiet. Birds calling all around, red squirrels churring, and woodpeckers drumming. The sounds seem to reverberate across the field in the still, cold air. There’s a thick coating of white frost on the patches of dead grass poking up through the snow. Before the sun rises this gives the grass a pale, sickly look. After sunrise the frost sparkles in the sunlight. Overhead, there is a broad sweeping arc of thin clouds, wispy in some areas and speckled with tiny white dot-clouds in other areas. This sweep of clouds highlights how clear the adjacent sky is: clear, pale blue closer to the sun; darker slate blue high up in the sky. At the pond there is almost an inch of fresh ice over my hole. After chopping around the edge I’m able to lift out most of it as a single large disc. Standing in the water I start looking at a small, triangular piece still floating in the water. I keep turning it over and over to look at it and through it from different angles. It’s so beautiful I want to bring it back to keep next to me at my desk but of course this would not work and I just have to enjoy it in the moment before returning it to the water.

February 4, 2012: Dawn

Up early. Gray clouds overhead and off to the north and west, but a patch of clear sky off to the southeast, turning orange down close to the horizon. No birds calling yet so the only sound is an occasional gusts of wind moving though the trees. Then the first birds start to call and slowly the morning chorus builds. A light dusting of snow fell last night and it’s been blown into streaks across the surface of the pond. Half an inch of fresh ice on the hole in the pond. One piece is nearly as clear as glass. Sunrise!

February 3, 2012: Winter Morning

A clear blue sky overhead, becoming orange along the eastern horizon. There is a clarity and sharpness to the morning that is unique to winter; you don’t get mornings like this in the summer. This sharpness is not necessarily embracing. The cold blue pre-dawn light on the icy snow and stubble in the field is not a welcoming site, but it is quite beautiful, at least to me who has a warm house and hot oatmeal waiting. The dense black mass of the pine trees is silhouetted against the orange of the eastern horizon, next to the feathery bare branches of the leafless trees, reaching up into the blue-orange sky. Crows flying over the field, black against the sky, cawing loudly as they go, add energy and life to the day. There is over ½ inch of ice on the hole in the pond and as soon as I clear the hole new ice crystals start to form on the black, still surface of the water. The rising sun imparts a warm glow to the bare trees, bringing out the subtle browns and greens and reds of the bark and branches.

February 2, 2012: Ice

The surface of the snow is so icy and hard it takes concentration to walk on it without falling down. Out in the field there are only a couple of inches of snow left and there are lots of grass patches showing through. Around the edges of these patches there is icy rim, nearly as clear and transparent as fresh lake ice. In one place this rim reaches out three inches or so from either side to two points that almost touch, with just a delicate quarter inch gap left between the two points. At the pond there is just a 1/16” thick layer of fresh ice over the hole. When I break this ice I can see the feathery patterns of the ice crystals both along the edges of the ice shards and in places reaching down, where the ice crystals were growing into the water below. Overhead the sky is filled with low, splotchy gray clouds, except that over to the east the clouds are more linear, but they still fill the sky. The clouds are all drifting slowly to the south. Looking back at my hole in the ice as I am leaving I can see the top of one of the pine trees reflected in the hole. It feels like I am looking through a window into another world.

February 1, 2012: Clouds

Like yesterday, the sky is filled with gray clouds overlaid on more gray clouds, but this morning the patterns seem especially complex. It is like some vast abstract painting stretching across the sky. Some areas are dark and softly modulated, streaked as if laid down with sweeping brush strokes. Other areas are splotchier, as if daubed on with a brush or a sponge, dark overlaid on light. Yet other areas are smooth and even with barely the subtlest hint of variation. This sky painting is constantly changing, forming and reforming into new patterns as the clouds drift slowly across the sky. The river down in the valley is loud this morning, flush with meltwater from the warm weather. A flock of small birds flies overhead, sweeping back and forth over the field, moving like a cluster of leaves being blown about by the wind before finally settling on a direction and disappearing over the trees to the northeast. At the pond, as I expected, the piece of ice that was thin and filled with holes yesterday is now all but gone. Even the pieces of ice that were thick and hard and clear yesterday when I pulled them out of the hole and stood them on edge are now thinner and filled with small crystals, transformed by the warmth of the sun.

Go to January 2012