Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Memories of Autumn

It is already a long cold winter, with more snow than we usually get in a whole year. The people walking on the sidewalk are bundled up like snowmen, as if trying to hide their identities from the cold hard hand of Winter.

As I gaze out the window, my mind goes back to the beautiful November that we enjoyed. The sun was low in the sky, but warm and golden, with blazing sunsets that put summer to shame. Even after the trees had given up their leaves, and they lay in a crunchy shroud around their feet, the park was beautiful.

I was at Rock Point Provincial Park, long closed for the season. In the deep quiet of an empty forest, there was beauty everywhere I looked. I didn't see dead leaves, bare branches, and brown grass. I saw hidden seeds, tiny sproutlings, oozes of sap, all indicating a season of sleep in preparation for the bursting forth of a fresh, green spring.

So I look out my window at the deep snow and frozen branches, the icicles and the snowplows. I don't feel sad, I don't feel discontent. I am enjoying the contrast, the turn of the seasons, and I am warmed by my memories.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A January Dawn

Cold, so bitterly cold. We’re not used to this here in the Niagara region. Up early to take the dog out, and was entranced by this beautiful sunrise. Not the brilliant pinks and oranges of a summer dawn, but gleaming with the golden bronze of the low January sun. My camera froze after only a few minutes, but I managed to capture a few interesting shots.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A January Afternoon

Cold. Snow. Bright sun, blue sky. What a gorgeous afternoon!

It is too good to waste. For early January in Canada, even southern Ontario, it was spectacular! I grab my camera and head out.

My destination is Happy Rolph's Bird Sanctuary. As anyone who lives in the Niagara Region knows, it is a wonderful spot any time of the year. During the summer, there are farm animals, horses, cows, pigs, donkeys, even lamas, in corals for the children to see, and goats to pet. There is a pen full of bunnies and guinea pigs, and another full of chickens, including some really exotic specimens. Down a long steep hill is a beautiful duck pond, full of mallards, geese and swans, and occasionally some more unusual types, and plenty of seagulls, of course. Great willows and oaks and pines dot the landscape, Lake Ontario is just up the path. The air is full of the sound of excited children and laughter and the twitter of birds.

In winter, there are few who visit. The animals are wintering in their nice warm barns, and the snow lies deep in the hollows and paths through the wooded areas. The wind off the lake is bitterly cold. But the beauty remains.

I take my camera and tripod out, remembering my gloves, and look around. All is peaceful, with the fresh snow of last night muffling the distant sounds of traffic. I hear the tweet of chickadees all around me, and I am hoping my camera can capture one of these small but very fast birds. The snow has no human footprints, but plenty of animal tracks.

As I wander through the park, I am amazed at the quietude. The trees shelter me from the breeze coming off Lake Ontario, and it feels quite warm, although it is probably a little below freezing. I hoist my tripod and head down to the pond.

As I pass a stand of cedars, I can hear the distinctive call of the chickadees, and I pause, hoping to get lucky. I have been trying to get a good clear shot of one of these black-capped little teasers since last summer. They keep showing themselves, hopping around in the snow or pausing on a twig, but never long enough for me to focus and snap. Too bad, I'll have to try again another day.

I head down the path to the duck pond. I know there will be birds there, because I could hear the geese honking all the way from the parking lot. I am amazed at what I see! The pond is now mostly frozen, leaving only a patch about 20 feet square with open water. Packed into that tiny space full of slush and ice is an incredible number of birds! Mallards, geese and even a swan are swimming and feeding and jockeying for position. How can they stand it? Don't their little legs get cold? Yet they keep ducking and bobbing amid the chunks of ice and slushy patches, seemingly oblivious to the cold.

After a time, I move on. I am so enjoying this winter walk! The snow in places is sculpted by the wind coming off the lake, and most of the pond and the stream, which in summer flows out into the lake, is frozen. What happens to the turtles in the winter, I wonder. The sun gleaming off the ice is glaring, making it difficult to get the shots I want.

As I follow the path that winds past the lakeshore and into the woods, the quiet deepens, and the twitter of the birds sounds loud in the silence. The chickadees are teasing me, probably laughing at my inability to capture their quick cheerinesss on film. Another day, another try! The trees are beautiful with a dusting of fresh snow, and the only footprints are those of the squirrels, rabbits, racoons and other denizens of this sanctuary. Everywhere I look is another beautiful sight.

I welcome the peace into my soul. The silence drowns out the clamour of everyday pressures, gently blowing them away into the distance where they can't disturb my tranquility. Little clumps of snow drop from the trees, like cares dropping away. My camera is busy, recording the beauty and creating a path back to this place of peace, where I can return whenever the mundane anxieties of modern life start to crowd out the peaceful centre of my spirit.

As I am packing up my camera, I look back into the park. Snow-covered playground equipment and picnic tables stand ready for the turn of the season, offering themselves now only to the squirrels. I look forward to returning to share in that miracle.

Profound white silence
Twitter of the chickadees
I don't mind cold feet.

Cheers from Ariana