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The Silver River freezes


I’ve been fascinated by the patterns of the freezing rivers lately.  The rivers have been donning their winter garb of ice and snow, settling in for the long freezing days and nights. 

The Silver River with long shadows on the other side of the bridge


Yesterday I photographed the Silver River as it passed under Townline Road, but today drove a little distance up Skanee Road to wander along the river through the woods.  How it meanders!  How the river dances around this bend and those rapids, never stopping, always moving.  Until ice renders it deceptively silent and still.  Don’t walk on it yet!  In fact, I have never walked on river ice.  The currents still run beneath the silent frozen surface.

Years ago I dreamed of falling through the ice on the Silver River, sucked down beneath the hard glass surface, unable to find a way to the hole, unable to find a way back up.  It was not a happy dream.

Slurry of brown water, white snow and ice


In some places the river looks muddy and brown.  If you walk around the curve, it suddenly struts its beauty in stark white.  Fascinating patterns swirl everywhere.  Rivers of ice exist within rivers of sparkling water.  

Magical swirls, magical rivers of ice


The camera uploaded more than fifty photos by the time it finished shooting the patterns and swirls.  It seemed impossible to pick eight photos to show you.  Each one looks so unique, so different.  In the end, I just closed my eyes and picked.  (Well, not really!  But you get the idea…) 

An angel of ice


We are surrounded by such beauty that we do not notice.  I have never before thought of wandering by the riverside documenting the freezing of river ice.  Why don’t we think to do such things?  

Patterned curves as the ice forms


There are rumors that a big snow storm is headed for the Upper Peninsula.  Maybe tomorrow?  Maybe the next day?  Some areas may get ten to fifteen inches.  Baraga County is part of that warning.  You can read about it here if you like.  Sigh…winter seems to be starting awfully early this year. 

Oh beautiful river!


It’s lovely to sit inside when the snow falls.  You feel so cozy and peaceful and snug.  It’s even fun to put on your warm winter clothes and go outside.  What is challenging is when loved ones (or one’s self) need to be on the road.  Driving in a snowstorm is no fun.  The snow loses its appeal very rapidly. 

How ice forms when you're looking up close


Back to our discussion of freezing rivers.  It’s interesting to get right up close to the edge of the ice.  Not too close!  You don’t want to fall in.  But close enough to linger at the edge of something brand new.  Something beautiful.  Something we’re going to get to know very intimately during the next four or five months…

After 10-20 inches of snow, it's looking like spring already!

After 10-20 inches of snow, it's looking like spring already!

Earth Day, 2009.  It’s here.  Did we all celebrate?  Did we all give gifts to the earth?  Did we all feel deep appreciation and love for our gently spinning planet?

As I mentioned yesterday, my “official” annual gift has been postponed.  The side of our road will be de-littered as soon as the snow melts.  The blue garbage bag awaits in anticipation. 

Instead, I spent an hour or so down by the Silver River this afternoon, admiring the river-waters.  My, is the water cresting after the latest deluge of snow!  As you sit very quietly along the riverbank, your pants getting soaked by the damp earth, the sound of snow clumps falling into the river resounds everywhere.  Ker-plop!  Down flies another wad from the cedar branches, from the hemlock arms, from the maple twigs.

Fallen trees drip snow into the river

Fallen trees drip snow into the river

It’s a hushed world in the swamp next to the river.  Dried orange and green cedar lies beneath the trees where the snow has melted away.  Birds sing and call, and ducks float away, just beyond the camera’s range.  The base of the trees often look strange and stunted, full of holes and odd angles.  Look at the tree legs below.  You can almost imagine that the tree walks around at night.

A tree with "legs" resting beside the river

A tree with "legs" resting beside the river

It looks so placid.  So tame.  Even with the water levels high and swirling by, it’s usually not a fierce river.  As it lazily winds out into the Huron Bay, at times it’s so shallow in the summertime you sometimes need to poke and prod along the sandy bottom to keep the craft moving. 

Placid waters?

Placid waters?

Last weekend a professor from Michigan Technological University lost his life while kayaking upstream on the Silver River.  The white-waters up higher grabbed his kayak and pinned him under a tree sideways.  He died.  The river can be dangerous as well as calm.  It’s a lesson we all need to remember when exploring on, around and in nature’s waters.  I thought of him and his grieving family, and gently touched the river.

I found the remains of a dead crow or raven under the cedar trees.  Only the feathers remained.

As for giving the Earth another gift today, I couldn’t decide what else to do. We live fairly simply.  We conserve, we try not to spend excessively, we try to fit in with nature.  Every day is Earth Day, in many ways. 

In the end, I decided perhaps my love and gratitude might be enough.  Maybe our combined love and and joy and thankfulness for the Earth is being heard deeply today.  Bless the earth and bless all of us, everyone.

The sun returns:  here comes the sun!

The sun returns: here comes the sun!

Melt, River, Melt

Melt, River, Melt

This afternoon the phone rang.  It was my co-worker.  She wanted to meet me down by the Silver River to exchange the goods.  I slipped on boots and winter jacket, hats and gloves and drove to our meeting place.

We parked our vehicles as close together as possible, reaching out to slip the small silver package from hand to hand.  With a laugh and a wave and barely three sentences, we revved the motors and sped off.

Our exchange?  A computer zip drive.  USB Flash Drive.  Whatever you call those slender pin drives which contain valuable software.  We do these drive-bys a couple times each month to exchange our work-related material.

Today I decided to wander back by the river and view the melting.  How exciting to discover the river mostly free and flowing!  I locked the car (you never know who might want to steal the $20 in my purse) and wandered back through the brush and cedar swamp areas.

First discovery.  A dead raven.  I will not burden you with the entire obituary photo with bedraggled wet and wild feathers askew in all directions.  Instead, you may view its claw.  (The nitty-gritty nature enthusiasts among you may want to lean closer to examine it; the more squeamish reader may scroll rapidly on to other photos.) 

Raven's claw

Raven's claw

I walked on to the left, attempting to get as close to the river as possible, without falling in.  The snowy/icy terrain proved a bit slippery.  Surprisingly so, as we’d recently gained a half inch of light snow since morning.  Over there, hanging in a tree, a strange-looking piece of fur caught my eye.  What the heck…?  Any theories why this small piece of deerskin hangs by a wire in the middle of the woods?

Deer hide with fur hanging from tree (on small wire)

Deer hide with fur hanging from tree (on small wire)

This brought back memories of my attempt to brain-tan a deer hide back in the early 90’s.  I had just attended the Tom Brown Jr. Wilderness Survival School and learned the basics about tanning a deer hide by hand.  You utilize the brains rather than chemicals, although my memory is fuzzy about the process after all these years.  I do remember spending hours and hours and hours and hours attempting to scrape and soften that hide.

Oh my goodness!  I do believe we have an ancient photo of that very event.  (You will also be disappointed to know that I did not succeed in tanning the hide properly.  It never really softened into a supple piece of leather.  No.  Instead it turned into a hard four-foot potato chip.  I eventually painted designs upon it and gave it back to the Earth as a gift.)  You will also be interested to know that our basement did not smell like perfume for that week.  The children even mostly stayed in far corners of our small house, attempting to stay clear of the smell.

Deer hide meets Kathy

Deer hide meets Kathy

Back to today.  I shall leave you with a non-animal photo to appease anyone more interested in the mineral world.  How about some stones peeking through the snow?  Beach stones gathered last summer up in the Keweenaw, planted beneath flowers close to the house.  (We’re bound to have one blog devoted entirely to beach stones next summer.  Like shells, they’re tremendously appealing, aren’t they?)

Melting snow reveals beach stones in garden

Melting snow reveals beach stones in garden

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