I walked north along the path on the river's snowy, icy eastern bank. Near the railroad tracks, some teens were sledding down an old high mound, once debris, now smoothed by age and overgrowth and years of sledding. Their newly matured voices rang out, distinct in their individual, blocky tones. As I went on and their voices faded, I grew very conscious of the trees next the path--for once undistracted by summer green or autumn russet--seeing clearly their size and age--the extreme corkiness of the bur oaks' bark, all furrowed and ridged; the smoother strips of the red oak; the diamond weave that marks the green ash; the textured patchiness of the maple. At intervals, I stood and looked and listened, before walking on. No sight of the usual deer, except tracks, of course.
I have seen the river nearly iced over, but today the central channel flowed, deep gunmetal gray, fairly low, so the current rippled and eddied around obstacles; the sound of the water riffling over some rocks surprised me, for the river is normally a quiet presence in these parts. Further south is the noisy dam where people fish in summer. After awhile I reached the place where the river broadens and curves around an island, a place where many trees show the angular cuts and stumps have the cone-shaped tops that beavers create, a place where grasses flourish in an opening the beavers helped make. The snow lay heavy on what looked to be a dam across the channel between the island and the west bank, something I hadn't noticed as complete a month ago. All remained still.
Alone in the woods is very different from together in the woods. A quiet walk alone is sometimes the necessary thing. After standing awhile, dusk coming on, I turned and headed for home.
Best wishes to all for the coming year.
Update 12/28/10: Dave Coulter at Osage + Orange took a walk that day, too. He sent this picture.
|Des Plaines River|
Gardening in Thatcher Woods With Help
Behold the Inglorious Garlic Mustard