Sunday, February 22, 2009
It is cold here beside the river on this February morning. A scant 20 degrees according to the thermometer mounted just outside the dining area window. A good day for building a fire and making a pot of chili, maybe baking a pone of spicy cornbread. Heat in any form will be welcome—whether from the flame-released BTUs of seasoned cordwood in the great room fireplace, or the capsicum heat from cayenne, jalapeños, and habanero peppers in the food. Thirty minutes ago I watched a mink heading upstream on the island across from the cottage. Its coat was the rich dark brown of satiny milk chocolate; the animal’s gait was that curious sinuous humping canter peculiar to weasels, ferrets, otters, ermines, and fishers—all members of the Mustelidae family. The mink was not following the river’s edge, but was finding its route a dozen yards back from the water, on higher ground cluttered with leaves and brush and deadfalls. Hunting, I think, though not for a meal. Rather I suspect the purposeful creature was looking for a mate or perhaps a suitable den site under one of the washed-up log piles or the intricate root-caves of the big sycamores. February to April is the mating season for mink hereabouts, and now is the time to get the ball rolling. So this morning’s mink was likely on a procreative quest. Yesterday’s skift of snow still covers the ground. Perhaps it is this bright white carpet that’s primarily responsible for shifting and changing the light filtering through overcast skies, making the river appear a deep slate green. Whatever the cause, it is a lovely hue—not the green of spring, but the green of mystery and promise. A green which makes me want to launch a canoe and follow the current wherever it may lead. What adventures await around yonder bend? The green water whispers to come and see, to take the chance, to put my faith it in pools and riffles, in the purling prayers it offers when passing over smooth stones, or the quiet sibilance of peaceful affirmation as it glides against a sandy bar. Without doubt the water is numbingly cold—yet within that moving green flow there’s an undeniable warmth. I see it and feel it and know it, as surely as I know anything. This is one of the reasons I’ve been so enamored with rivers and creeks all my life—because no matter how much you learn their ways, regardless of the intimacy achieved, there’s always a paradox. Rivers are like life, possessing a past, present, and future. Never the same, always changing, beguiling and filled with surprise. Today this soft green river calls to me…and just between us, I confess, I’m more than half inclined to listen.