Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Breath of the Earth

November 7, 1009
Mud Pond, Moreau Lake State Park, NY

Last night was quite cold, and the ground is white with frost.
Thus gradually, but steadily, winter approaches.
There is frost not only on all the withered grass and stubble,

but it is particularly thick and white and handsome around the throat of every hole and chink in the earth’s surface,
The congealed breath of the earth as it were …

HDT, November 13, 1858

Up early for another Frostweed walk!

What a splendid day to spend with kindred souls (who are also fun to be with.)

Met Jackie D. and new friend Jackie C. at Moreau for an early walk at Mud Pond.
(Two Jackies! This could get confusing! Using the initials of their last names, I considered referring to them as DEE, and CEE. Immediately jettisoned that idea, since it would swiftly lead to both of them referring to me as ... PEE.)

Conditions were perfect for frost formation – 27 degrees and clear.
Once on the path, each of us was quietly overwhelmed at the beauty of the morning.

But we did what anyone with an artist's eye and a digital camera would do:

The frostweed had again sprouted its crystals overnight. I think it was a new sight for Jackie C. By now, I’ll bet she’s already plotting a way for us to camp out overnight and witness the process as it actually happens. Which would be very cool.

Once again, the pond was empty of geese. Several groups of them approached, passing overhead. They seemed to prefer the Big Lake today for a landing-spot.

Nevertheless, the pond was a fine sight to behold.

The small group of hooded mergansers was up at the far end of the pond. As we drew closer to them, we heard a few of their froggy calls. Through binoculars, one could see the males were fanning up their bright crests in some sort of display.

The wind picked up.
Then we heard a different sort of noise. Jackie C. heard it first – “was that a turkey?” It sounded for all the world like a nervous hen. Bip ...bip....bip... But we saw nothing.

After a while, despite our tromping around in the leaves, I still heard it, and wandered off the trail to zero in on the noise.

It was a pitch pine, its top swaying in the wind, moaning and chirruping just like a red squirrel.
If you leaned your ear against the trunk, you also heard snappy noises, like the mast of a ship straining under sail.
We took turns listening to the Song of the Pitch Pine.

In the end we discovered that the noise came from a rather mundane source: one sharp and broken branch rubbing against another. But if you ask me, that tree was talking!

Not only did we get a hard frost last night, but it was my first glimpse of water beginning to freeze. The pond’s edge was embossed with the seal of November.

The breeze continued, chilling us. As we frequently stopped to look at this or that, we didn’t proceed fast enough to build up any body heat. Jackie C. was gamely trying to hang in there, despite recently getting over a bad cold.
We returned to the Park Office, and thawed out for a few moments, chatting with Dave and Cliff. Dave showed us a very cool iTouch sort of device that played bird songs, including the hooded merganser note ! He planned to take it along on the Bird Walk, scheduled for that afternoon.

Warmed-up again, we walked out along a wooded ridge, to a point overlooking Head Cove.
(How it got its name is a story for another time!)
Circling around to the other side of the cove, we sampled frozen grapes in a yellow glade.
The sun felt good here.

It was a place where Jackie C.'s coat fit right in like camo:

We played with puffballs ...

and watched a tiny wasp.

Jackie D. recited Gerard Manley Hopkins on our way back to the car.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things ...


  1. It is such terrific fun to tramp with you. The tramp itself is full of delights, and then to revisit the day through your blog compounds the pleasure. I love all your photos but I'm especially impressed that you actually caught on camera the puffball smoke. I also love the new ice forming around the leaf, looking like a glass fish or bird.

    What a change in the weather from yesterday to today! From longjohns, scarves and mittens, to shorts and T-shirts.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post. You have some very nice photos, as well. Every time I read about your (and Jackie D's) adventures at Moreau, I think to myself, "Self - you really need to visit that park!"

  3. Thanks for stopping by -
    nice to meet you WoodswomanE. !
    I visited your blog today, but it will not accept my comment -
    I have the same problem with your blog, Ellen - don't know what I am doing wrong.
    I'm using my google account ID, & that works for Jackie's blog ...but on the other 2 it just says "Error"... help!

  4. I loved your post! As Jackie said, reading someone else's description of the day simply reinforces that wonderful experience! I loved your photo of the freezing water - just like an abstract painting - and your capture of my surprise and delight, whilst I listened to the Pitch Pine groaning, was priceless, too.