Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Nature Writing Entry #2

1/20/15 at 3:30pm
At the Promontory at Stewart Park

  • Temperature: 26 degrees
  • Wind: 5 MPH
  • Feels like: 20 degrees
  • Mostly sunny, with scattered clouds

Animals seen:
  • Canada geese flying overhead

Human presence:
  • Foot and tire tracks all around the park
  • A few cars parked, a few people walking on the ice
  • One woman on a thick-tired bike riding on the ice

Rush. Get it done. What is there to see today? Take photographs. Go. Now. Go. Move.

I’d squeezed my visit to the Promontory between a much needed trip to the grocery and my kid’s pick-up time from after school ice skating. I thought I’d left enough space, but I was down to forty-five minutes—if I wanted enough of a buffer to get to the rink to help the kids take their skates off. So I arrived at Stewart Park in a flurry, annoyed that the check-out man had been the slowest one in the store today. 

I gathered my notepad, pens, camera, and walked out to the edge of the lake. The wind blew a steady breeze and cut right through both layers of pants that I wore. My fingers were already cold, but slipping one out of the mitten to take pictures felt like slipping them into ice water. I hurried to the loop.

Hurry. Pay attention. Click. Go. Move.

The ice had drawn closer to shore since last week, though not much. The inlet where Fall Creek pours into Cayuga Lake was completely iced over well out to the first lighthouse. From there, the blue water lapped at the edge of the ice, beckoning me. I wanted to be closer to the water, but wasn't brave enough—or stupid enough—to leave land.

On the western side of the Promontory I found a small rock beach protected from the wind. I climbed the few steps down to it and stood facing the sun, the tips of my boots crunching the ice where frozen Fall Creek met the shore. I was instantly warmer.

There are more than 140 tributaries that feed into Cayuga Lake, and Fall Creek is one of the largest. It runs about a mile back to Ithaca Falls—one of Ithaca’s most beloved downtown waterfalls—where the water tumbles down from 100 feet above as it races to the lake. Even with the creek frozen over, the water from the hills doesn't stop its sprint over Ithaca Falls. It has to make its way to Cayuga Lake somehow. I guessed that it must be moving underneath the ice.

I stood still. Perhaps I could hear it.

As I waited for sound, instead, I noticed breath. My breath. For the first time all day I’d slowed down enough to be present. Some Canada geese flew overhead. The sun warmed my legs through my dark jeans. The snow glistened like diamonds sprinkled across the ice. 

There was more here to take in than I could do in forty-five minutes. It was time to stop moving. I sat down on a cold slab of shale and let the sun thaw me. 

All across the ice-crusted shore were bits and pieces of life: the shells of zebra mussels broken and scattered; a scrap of aluminum foil tossed carelessly aside; a yellow brick frozen into the ground, a remnant of Ithaca’s yellow brick road days. Each thing sparked in me curiosity, generated ideas, triggered thoughts. Though I had stopped my body, my mind kept moving.

Like Fall Creek. It was frozen on the surface, but underneath, the water kept racing for the lake. But then the thought struck me that maybe it wasn't racing. Does water ever really race anywhere? Maybe it was just flowing in the direction it needed to go and the ice had simply slowed it down a bit. I needed to slow down a bit too, and it seemed this ice was helping me do that. What was the rush all about anyway?

For a moment, I didn't want to move. Or rush. Or go. And so, I didn't.


Melanie Fox said...

Maybe it was just flowing in the direction it needed to go and the ice had simply slowed it down a bit. I needed to slow down a bit too, and it seemed this ice was helping me do that.

I am struck by how thoughtfully you're considering something as seemingly mundane as winter ice. I love how you just stopped, paid attention, and heard it tell you an important story.

Erica Scaife said...

I think you do a great job of capturing the hurried mind most of us walk (or rush) around with these days. Your writing at the beginning of your piece feels hurried and frantic. By the end, however, when you'd stopped to take in the moment, your writing feels calm. You definitely took your reader on this journey with you in this piece.