The sky is a blanket of pale gray clouds. After two days of brilliant blue, the overcast seems darker than it is, a pall slipped over the landscape. And yet…this shadowless veil has the counter-intuitive effect of making colors richer, more saturated, as if the gain had been increased by giving the color-intensity knob a hefty clockwise crank.
As is my normal routine, I began the morning well before daylight—sitting at my desk with a mug of steaming coffee, peering into the thick blackness beyond the study window and waiting for the river to slowly appear like a ghostly vein below the sub-dermal layer of darkness. This will be the last week of Daylight Savings Time. Good riddance! Enough with governmental meddling! Allow the time to be what it is, what feels "natural."
Sure, I understand this system of measurement is something devised by man, invented for our comfort and convenience. Night and day divided into twenty-four one-hour increments, themselves each divided into sixty minutes, with another sub-division of minutes into sixty seconds. One turn of the earth all chopped up into neat little pieces. As if such a formal imposition might really matter.
The relationship seems more natural to me if the pattern of light and dark is allowed to mirror the rhythm of the seasons as I first encountered them. The sudden relocation of dusk and dawn when Daylight Savings Time takes over in the spring, and departs in the fall, does nothing for me except muck up my prototype rhythm of season and time so deeply ingrained from childhood. Back then, October daylight arrived an hour earlier; so did dusk. That still feels natural to me. So I say again…good riddance!
Unfortunately, I don't think I can blame the behavior of my adopted ducks on time-change. Whatever form of alarm clock ducks employ for their morning wake-up, it is simply set to early. As in too-dark-to-see early. Not that darkness hampers their feeding capabilities. Maybe ducks have built in thermal imaging…or are hiding little pairs of night-vision goggles under their wings. Whatever. When they decide it's time for breakfast—which happened about 6:21 EDST this morning—they paddle up from their usual night berth a hundred yards downstream, dock themselves just off my riverbank steps and within easy corn-tossing range of the front deck, and quack loud enough to wake the dead…or any sleeping neighbors for blocks around.
This is not, I must reemphasize, a standard mild-mannered park-pond duck quack. We're talking QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! Part Canada goose, part trumpeter swan, with bit of air-horn from those clown cars at the circus. Loud. Obnoxious. Bleating. Demanding. FEED US! FEED US! FEED US!
Naturally, I dash out and sling them their measure of cracked corn forthwith, before anyone starts shooting. A slave to ducks. What an ignominious position for a dignified nature scribbler, and proof once again that no good deed goes unpunished…
Long after my panhandling waterfowl have breakfasted, morning arrives—not via light flooding over the eastern horizon, but by light which simply sneaks in here, there, and everywhere, like mildew in a closet, until there comes a moment when you realize you can see shape and color. I pluck the camera from the desk and step outside, careful to remain hidden from the ducks' view.
The river is beautiful in the soft light—water the color of dark jade, bankside vegetation a study in gold and orange, tan and russet, yellow, green, and some small plant upstream that shows a dark shade of ox-blood Cabernet. A lone turkey vulture wings slowly overhead.
I love days such as this, love their cloistered feel, love the way some hues are muted and others seem to glow as if lit by an inner light. Life is so wondrous, so lovely…so precious. No day should ever be wasted.
"Com'on, ducks," I said, loud enough so's the paddling pair on the nearby pool could hear my voice. I stepped out from behind the tree and headed toward the corn bin. "Com'on and have a second helping!"