Thursday, December 8, 2016

Season's dilemmas and delights #phenology

I heard from the dentist, during an emergency appointment this morning, that Christmas candy (in my case, cashew brittle) often does villainous things to in-place fillings. After the anesthetic wears off, I'll learn if this particular villain has been thwarted.

On the way to my appointment, I noticed that almost all the shallow waters in the neighborhood are mostly to fully ice-covered, with limited openings only where the Sunrise River is flowing. Larger, deeper water bodies, such as Forest Lake and White Bear Lake, are mostly still open water. Since there's still open water and food to be gleaned, flocks of geese and even some swans are still hanging around. The swans provided a thrill on my way home as I watched a small flock of a half-dozen white trumpeters flying under the pale gray cloud cover. They looked ethereal enough to have passed for angels headed to or from making announcements or pronouncements to shepherds or wise men.

December swans, 2015
December swans, 2015
Photo by J. Harrington

Aldo Leopold has written “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot." Visions like today's, of the trumpeter swans, to borrow part of his next line "... are the delights ... of one who cannot.” I have a strong suspicion that the flock I saw today is the same one that was floating on the still unfrozen Carlos Avery Sunrise River pools a couple of weeks ago. A year ago today, the pools were still wide open and had many swans swimming.

I thought that my highlight for the day, that had been perked up on my way to the dentist, came when I noticed, for the second time this week, a small flock of wild turkeys feeding and scratching their way through a field that, back in October, had been planted in soy beans. The swan sighting was icing on the cake and ice cream on the side. I hope your season brings as many delights as mine has thus far offered me, but you might want to stay away from hard Christmas candy unless your teeth are all original equipment.

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

- Mary Oliver 

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Please be kind to each other while you can.