6:31 a.m. 41 degrees, wind ENE 1 mph. Sky: half-moon above the marsh shines
through a pastel wash, the pink and peach of a nearly cloudless sunrise;
then the birth of several clouds, condensation points, some a dense
grayish-purple—everything in the transition to spring-time white and blue.
Pockets of thin ground fog, the breath of night, slowly dissipating.
Permanent streams: a pair of watery ribbons allows rock-hopping mink to
reach the Hollow's eastern wall and the next valley, and eventually . . .
my friend's trout pond, where he dines in solitude on the finest (and most
expensive) fish in the neighborhood. Streams, steady flows; the magic of
summer, which sleeps as soundly as a woodchuck, has lost its evaporative
clout. Wetlands: a half bowl of mist on the west end, east end clear. The
western wall, a dark and jagged mix of evergreens, now softer and lighter
in diffusing fog; more ethereal, less bleak . . . a simple illusion. Pond:
lonely female merganser, brown-frosted crest, erect, a tomahawk-head, works
the far edge, the mink's domain, diving, surfacing, circling, slipping back
into the water with barely a ripple, feathers a tightly linked water
repellent unit—rachis, barbs, barbules, hooklets—the original Velcro.
Surfaces, again, a small crayfish clamped in a serrated bill. A shake. Two
slaps against the water. And down the dark gullet, headed toward a bath of
stomach acid and digestive enzymes. A slight current of mist drifts in from
the marsh. A litter of milkweed seeds, like scraps of cotton, on the berm,
the grass, the edge of the pond; peeling of the pods; sowing for next
summer's monarchs, whose ancestors now cross the Rio Grande, mocking
the Wall and the international border, a leveraged migration built on last
DOR: a newt, tail still twitching, headed away from the marsh.
AOR: a pair of slugs
Absent from the road (and adjacent woods and marsh) robins, which must be
dispersing across southern New England and the Mid-Atlantic states.
Three clusters of red-breasted nuthatches keep up their end of the bargain,
enliven the woods with lighthearted if colorless toots. In defiance of
planetary law, one descends pine picking the through pleated bark; flicks a
tuft of brown needles; on the hunt for insects and insect eggs, spiders and
spider eggs. Finds something to its liking. And a second something. Claws
on bark, a soft, scratchy sound like belly scales of home-bound
rattlesnakes bushing brittle leaves.
The enthusiasm of chickadees. The whispers of creepers. The Twitter of
crossbills. The sibilance of siskins. The morn of doves. The loquaciousness
of jays. The jarring of crows. The thrill of a red-shouldered hawk that
passes over the marsh, an afterthought of fall migration. Alive, alone,
leashes in hand, the count goes on without me, as I straddle the thin line
between rhapsody and despair.