(Regular blog posts will resume December 30, 2012; happy holidays to all!)
The light and dark of the days leading into the winter solstice are ones I observe closely; the actual date is the darkest day of the year, and it is the day of fewest hours of light. But after the 24 hours that is the winter solstice, every dawn that follows offers more light and less night.
The autumnal sleep culminates in the pivotal moment of the winter solstice, as the slumber stirs toward the light, day by day, growing and warming to the spring solstice. For me, there is an ending of one in the beginning of another for what is an ending if not a beginning.
Almost daily, Cooper and I meet day’s first light at Waverly pond. It is Cooper’s favorite time of day and these days, his best time, for the drier winter mornings are preferable to the usual humidity of northern Florida. His discomfort from arthritis is increasing as is his inflammation but there are still mornings when he tries out a bit of a trot, which forces me to keep up. He has taught me that any day improves with movement.
Waverly is a marvel in any season but this is my first winter with her. Her waters have receded so that the turtles no longer feed under the bridge, which Cooper and I still cross more often than not. He is in the winter of his life but not yet in the deep sleep of the solstice, while I remain on the edge between autumn and winter.
Jack-o’-lantern orange needles thicken Waverly’s diminishing green carpet of earthen brown leaves, tamped with damp. Even on overcast mornings, brown, green, and orange are vibrant, showy even. The needles are from what may be a golden larch–so very like a pine with swooping, willow-like limbs—its needles an elegantly rich blanket for winter.
By the spring solstice, the larch’s velvet needles will re-dress every limb and branch in sweeping splendor–such is the life of a larch–slumbering in these days preceding the winter solstice, assured of what is and what will be.
On this morning, Cooper takes us across the bridge and into the gazebo where I am to sit while he roams but not far. If we make it to the gazebo, we stay longer, especially if I have brought the camera. From Cooper’s perspective, the camera keeps me occupied with the colors of the day as he seeks the scents.
In the winter, the geese return to Florida and Waverly pond is a favorite. This year, a pair of wood storks visited one morning; a crane, possibly a sand hill, also stayed for a few days. It was a wet year for Waverly and the pond offers much to its residents as well as travelers.
In the last three weeks, a Great Blue Heron has come to stay as has a snowy egret, which Wikipedia says is a white heron. There was a time when I thought such distinctions important but now I’m happy just to see them. Cooper is a Beagle and other kinds of hounds–I am German, Russian and French at least—waterfowl, canine and human are simply living out who and what they are in the shadows of the winter solstice.
Even as I attempt to photograph the images of the egret and the heron, I am only able to capture their mirror images softened in the morning mist, their clarity beyond my lens, more a painting than a snapshot. In my autumn years, my focus blurs distinctions in any species.
On another morning, one when Cooper and I do not cross the bridge to the gazebo, we watch an anhinga drying its feathers on turtle row. Outside the gazebo, Cooper and I are more observable–I like to think that our daily presence makes us a known scent but that is human silliness—Cooper keeps us at what seems an agreeable distance, much more interested in trees and shrubs than the water or fowl.
I watch him more than he realizes. Every time, I am glad that we are at Waverly on this day and that he is engaging with every scent he can find and even in winter, there are many. I do my best to stay as present as Cooper for far too easily my mind wanders to spring and whether or not Cooper will be with me at Waverly, gazebo or no.
He is twelve in human years and increasingly, there are recurrent bouts of colitis, gastritis. We work with his diet but he pays it less mind than I. In the winter of his life, Cooper is ever present, reminding me a walk around Waverly provides another perspective on whatever is. No matter how many mornings we have, we are always changed.