Friday, February 7, 2014

Tracks and trails

Let me say that, after a week in which I ventured no further than a short walk from the front door, it felt really good to get out and about today, despite temps only in the very low double digits and a windchill of about 20 below. By my estimation, I've recouped to something like 90%+ of my normal marginally functional self.

As two of us headed down toward Stillwater, I took a chance to scratch a long-standing itch and swung by the St. Croix River at Osceola. As I suspected it might be, the river is bank to bank ice-covered, covered with snow, just like the pond a little north of the house. However, the stretch of the St. Croix we looked at didn't seem to have any tracks in the snow.

pond covered with ice covered with snowcovered with tracks
pond, covered with ice, covered with snow, covered with tracks
© harrington

The drive from the Franconia Sculpture Garden down 95 to Stillwater goes through some of the prettiest country in Minnesota, I think, possibly because it's reminiscent of New England. With all of the fields now snow-covered, there's a certain monotony in the scenery at this time of year, but the overall pattern of "wood lots" and farm fields interspersed between St. Croix Falls, Marine and Stillwater remains attractive. It was more so before property values helped convert some farm fields into subdivisions named after what they wiped out, you know, like "Fox Run" or "Deer Trails." Speaking of deer trails, here's another photo from today's outing. This one's from the east side of the road, opposite the pond. The deer trails are heading into or out of a tamarack swamp I suspect is used as a bedding area.

deer trails in the snow
deer trails in the snow           © harrington

I'm sorry to report there were no notable signs of Spring that we could observe. We did see several crows and one red tail hawk. and noted that the sun is getting stronger by the day and, for Valentines day, may show some love for us by starting to melt the roadsides. Wouldn't that be nice?  For today, let's enjoy what Robert Frost knows of New England, and Winter.

The Wood-Pile

By Robert Frost 

Out walking in the frozen swamp one gray day,
I paused and said, 'I will turn back from here.
No, I will go on farther—and we shall see.'
The hard snow held me, save where now and then
One foot went through. The view was all in lines
Straight up and down of tall slim trees
Too much alike to mark or name a place by
So as to say for certain I was here
Or somewhere else: I was just far from home.
A small bird flew before me. He was careful
To put a tree between us when he lighted,
And say no word to tell me who he was
Who was so foolish as to think what he thought.
He thought that I was after him for a feather—
The white one in his tail; like one who takes
Everything said as personal to himself.
One flight out sideways would have undeceived him.
And then there was a pile of wood for which
I forgot him and let his little fear
Carry him off the way I might have gone,
Without so much as wishing him good-night.
He went behind it to make his last stand.
It was a cord of maple, cut and split
And piled—and measured, four by four by eight.
And not another like it could I see.
No runner tracks in this year's snow looped near it.
And it was older sure than this year's cutting,
Or even last year's or the year's before.
The wood was gray and the bark warping off it
And the pile somewhat sunken. Clematis
Had wound strings round and round it like a bundle.
What held it though on one side was a tree
Still growing, and on one a stake and prop,
These latter about to fall. I thought that only
Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks
Could so forget his handiwork on which
He spent himself, the labor of his ax,
And leave it there far from a useful fireplace
To warm the frozen swamp as best it could
With the slow smokeless burning of decay. 



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