The day began with the coldest temperature reading so far this winter—minus 2˚F at 6:30 a.m. When I stepped off the deck and ambled over to the river, I knew it was below-zero because the snow screaked underfoot. That's my word for it—a sound sort of halfway between a squeak and a crunch. I've been tromping around in snow for enough years that I'm getting to be a pretty fair judge of such esoteric matters.
The sun wasn't quite up, but there was light in the sky and the snow-covered earth of the island across from the cottage seemed to give off its own pale glow—enough that I could see a thin, spectral fog rising off the water and hovering in the air above the riffle.
Cardinals, impatient for their breakfast grain, called from nearby trees. I turned back, tossed them their allotted scoops, checked the seed and suet feeders, and made sure I knew where Moon the dog had wandered off to as she made her snuffling perambulations around the yard. Keeping track of a white-and-brown dog in a white-and-brow landscape isn't as easy as you'd think. Sometimes when I whistle and yell, threatening all manner of retributions, I'm chagrined to find her standing beside me, giving me that I-have-a-fool-for-a-master look which all dogs employ when you're in obvious need of a good humbling.
As it turned out, Moon was over near the juniper bushes, seeing what she could flush from their tangled interior. The sun was just making its way above the eastern hill, seeming to get tangled momentarily in my neighbor's evergreens. The morning arrived with peach-pink light, which washed over and colorized everything from water to snow to icicles. A tree sparrow sang a couple of high sweet notes.
An hour later the fog had evaporated and the peach-pink light had been replaced by a strong blue sky. The world was a'dazzle, sparkling in the sunlight. It made your heart sing to just to stand beneath all that energy and look up look up.
The river was an indigo ribbon, a blue so deep and intense it could have been dyed with ink. Arterial liquid of a wintery land, running, pouring, catching the sun and mirroring the trees on either bank.
Now the day is winding down. The sun is on its downhill path to the western horizon. The sky is gold. It is still cold, but above zero, probably in the low 20s, though I'm too lazy to check. There are mallards, up from the river, feeding on the last of the corn by the front deck. In a minute, after they've finished and flown off, I'll go outside and toss out another scoop for the birds, a bedtime snack in case anyone's still hungry.
Then I'll build a fire in the front room and watch the sunset, quietly savoring whatever develops.