January 11, 2021

Gonna eat you!


Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.



I woke up with a mild sore throat, some sinus discomfort and a little nasal congestion.  This rapidly progressed to include a low-grade fever and a mild cough.  The sinus pain for the first day was bad enough to make it difficult to sleep well and the nasal congestion became a rhinorrhea flood.  All in all, I was feeling a bit too rocky for Waldo and my usual daily six-mile jaunt and I decided to take it easy.  But the dog still has to go out and do his business, so we went on more half-mile walks than usual, staying around the property where we live.  Waldo took it well, but I know he missed being out on the rail-trail.

It rained that first night — well, more of a heavy mist, really.  The temperature was right around freezing and ice was everywhere.  Windshields had about an eighth of an inch of clear lumpy ice glued to their glass like epoxy.  Because it was clear, light would go cleanly through it, but the uneven surface defocused it so you really couldn’t make out well-formed images on the other side.  The grass was covered by a thin sheet of rime ice that looked white, but was contiguous and it crunched underfoot.  The asphalt and cement sidewalks were coated in black ice that was very slippery and I had to step carefully.  Waldo, not so much.  His four-paw drive kept him upright better than my bipedal stumble-and-shuffle did.

The trees, now that was something special — particularly at night.  The freezing rain coated all the branches, large and small, with an eighth inch of transparent ice, as if they’d been dipped in clear glass.  During the day, this made the tree tops, where the really small branches are, appear white.  But at night, there was magic.

It was after dark and as I crunched my way along on the grass, being gently (mostly) pulled forward by Waldo, I gazed up at what winter left behind of a large old Norway maple.  Its leaves were all long gone and the icy limbs refracted the ambient light in a way that made them stand out all shiny.  On the other side of the tree, about as high as the middle of the fullest part of the tree, was a small lamp.  Not a street lamp, but a dimmer light on top of a pole.  It was placed there, no doubt, to illuminate the grounds, dimly, for anyone sauntering around in the dark.  At first, as I walked along, the lamp and the tree were not on the same line as my eye and the light’s nearness just served to make the tree look like it was made up of long shiny needles poking up into the air.  Very pretty.

Then, as the lamp came into alignment with the tree, wondrous things happened.  I’ve noticed before that if you look at a light through the branches of a tree at night, the light reflects off the surfaces of the branches in a way that makes it look like they surround the light.  Dozens of circles of small thin twigs completely, but intermittently, engulf the light as if it is being suspended in a porous, woven, woody ball.  In order to get the most dramatic effect, it works best if you position your eye so the light is blocked by a good-sized branch, in order to dim the brightness of the light itself.  But on that night, it wasn’t necessary.  Since the branches were all covered in ice and the lamp was not too bright, the interplay of the two put on a slowly evolving and amazing display as I walked past.

At first, it looked like the tree was opening up to engulf the source of the light — like a big maw, full of long, slender, silvery teeth, widening and reaching out to bite it.  It then closed its fearsome jaws, holding the light gently and loosely inside a skeletal, globular mouth.  Finally, as the lamp and tree slowly left true alignment, the tree appeared to open up on its other side, as if thinking better of swallowing it, and let the light loose safely into the darkness once again.

I’m not sure why I find that so fascinating, but I do.  Maybe the element of finding the unexpected in the midst of the ordinary plays a role.  I’m quite sure Waldo was oblivious to what I witnessed, but, then, I have little to no idea of the vast world he smells, especially in all its variety and wonder, as he walks along.  We’re both entertained by our walks, no matter how short.

And that’s what counts.


Different tree, different light, same affect.

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