One of the things I like about early winter is that the architecture of the forest is exposed to view. The leaves are down, there is no snow cover yet, and the low light creates a moodiness that I enjoy. So even though it was cold and windy at the park today, and the paths were boggy in spots, I pocketed my little Nikon and trudged out with my ear flaps down.
It was a day for capturing the skeletal beauty of the trees and the frigid clarity of the lake. In a quiet inlet, a partially submerged log dominated the foreground. In warmer weather, it is often the sunning deck for turtles, who slip gracefully beneath the water should the curious hiker come too near. All around the dark, sodden log quivered the nude, silvery-grey reflections of trees until the surface of the water was as peopled and vibrant as the wooded banks.
The hawthorns that crowd up to the lake threw a net against the sky to catch the pale, blurred orb of the sun. In their wild intricacy, they reminded me of the neural net of the brain – ganglia and axons humming with thoughts, philosophies, dreams, and snatches of poetry. The language of this tribe of twisted, thorny trees snapped and rattled against the grey sky, whispering over my head.
On the sandy path, an oak leaf sailed a patch of damp and puddled melt. The water shimmered and glinted like glass, and the trees were there, too, on the scant reflective surface. As I crouched to capture it, a family on bicycles drifted slowly by, bemused. They were gone as quickly and quietly as deer, and the shattered mirror of the puddle gave back only the calm winter light.
At the edge of the lake, a tiny surf rolled and retreated over the gold pebbled wash. Like treasure, the stones glinted and winked, enhanced by the laving of the cold lake. This fragile margin will soon turn to ice, a pellucid crust of crystal that holds the voice of the tide within it.
The winter hush will be heavy on the forest then, and the lake will sleep under its caverns of blue ice that thunder and crack on warm days. Snow is coming soon, to shroud the bare branches. The sky will rest deep in the woods, tired of bearing its freight aloft, and the cardinals and jays will be the only color. This last unhindered look at the miraculous architecture of tree and stone, this last freedom of water, this last buoyant sky, are gifts to dream on in the dark months ahead.