Wednesday’s beautiful snow is gone. Subsequent rain turned it first into a messy barrier and then runoff for the storm drain. Today the apple tree’s bare limbs flex softly in a warm breeze that brings a false promise of spring. The tree is a fool about winter and will start unfurling leaves soon if the cold does not return.
Expecting better out the road we drive north to hike near Eagle River. This is tall spruce country where any sunlight reaching the understory brings drama. We expect little drama on this high overcast day but the birds surprise. Thick flocks block out the sound of running river water with their high pitched chant — chit-chit-chit-chit. Bird song follows us deep into the woods where tree limbs wear unruly blankets of green moss. Two very upright hemlocks face each other with moss draped middle limbs forking out like the arms of lovers beginning a dance.The moss’ rich yellow green color seduces in this flat light. Much to Aki’s annoyance, I stop often to admire.
Warm temperatures and rain reduced the snow pack to reveal the broken tree branches and squirrel ravaged cones now littering the trail. I pick up a severed balsam limb and crush its sticky leaf bud with finger and thumb to release a smell like Chrism oil or the balm of Gilead. After, I smell this promise of spring each time I remove my glove.
We follow the trail to the river. On our last visit polygon blocks of river ice lay neatly stacked on meadow grass. Reduce in mass by warm rain, the fused together ice has exchanged hard edges for flowing Dali curves.
Common Mergansers float downstream in a small flotilla and then break formation to dive for food. On the near bank four Canada Geese walk slowly away from us with a nervous casualness. One sings a low monotone song. “You don’t scare me, dog in the fancy red coat.” Aki, nose buried into an interesting piece of meadow doesn’t even notice.