N.C.A.: November Notes, cont.

I do, in fact, have more to say about November in the north country.

I realized this yesterday – or was it the day before? – as I was taking a walk through the snowy woods, along a path whose secrets I won’t wholly betray but which I’ll gladly say is a favorite haunt of mine, and one that I’ve gone too long without visiting.

Of course! How could I have forgotten how peaceful it is out here? How could I have let so much time go by without refreshing my soul again along this lovely, quiet path?

And HOW – please tell! – had I managed to forget about frost spaghetti – so absurd, so wholly unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before (isn’t everything?!) – so quickly??!

At least, “frost spaghetti” is what I dubbed the new acquaintance in fun last week, after a friend pointed out to me, as we walked along paths in a different woods, these incredible, small formations of frozen water poking up out of the ground and looking, for all the world, like spaghetti sprung fresh from the frozen earth and made of frost. Hence, “frost spaghetti.” (There are much more romantic  names I could’ve come up with, surely, rather than “frost spaghetti,” but that was the most immediate to mind and it stuck, so what the heck? I’ll let it be.) Some of these icy pasta strands were so ambitious that they pushed small pebbles up with them, holding them aloft like miniature meatballs. I’m a little afraid to wonder how long it would’ve taken me to notice this phenomenon had my friend not pointed it out, bless her!

I remembered all this as I was walking – crunch, crunch, crunch – through the perfect snow. What reminded me, I think, was seeing the beginnings of ice forming along the sides of the creek, for this triggered another memory from last week. I recalled, in an instant, the ice forming over the streams in the woods where I was working, the same woods that host frost spaghetti, and how that ice was clear like glass, not opaque like other ice which is thicker and mixed with snow, and yet this clear glass resisted firmly the stick I thrust at it. Along another trail in the same Adirondack swath, I came across more ice. Crusted over a deep puddle, this glass did crack – and delightfully so! – when I stepped on it with my boot. My friend, walking the trails in search of me just a bit later (we hadn’t the foresight for radios, that day), saw my footprint and thought “Ah-ha! That’s hers.”

Frost spaghetti, the ice, and the beautiful designs etched onto the surface of some of the ice called to mind the neat bit of artistry I found left on my window just the other morning, when Jack Frost had swung by just a bit early for me that day, and left a sampling of his signature handiwork behind for a calling card.

And as I was walking in those woods with my friend last week, I told her about the time, two winters or so ago, when I was cross-country skiing behind our house and I glanced up to see – to my astonishment – a purely white form swoop silently from one treetop to another and then disappear. That was the one and only time I have been privileged to see a snowy white owl in the wild. I can’t remember if I heard its unearthly call first, or if I just happened to look up to see the owl and heard it hoot only afterwards. It’s associated in my mind with that time I was fifteen and on a ferry-boat near Seward, Alaska; I saw a chunk of ice fall silently off a glacier a mile or so in front of me. The light flew to me faster than the sound, and it was only as it was about to enter the teal-colored water that I heard the testament of its separation and fall. I remembered the snowy owl again as I walked in the woods closer to home, along my favorite path, and looked up at the sound of a hawk’s cry to see the bird fly off. My friend and I saw a hawk last week, too.

November yields such gifts as these, and more; now if only I can remember them, or at least remember to be on the lookout…


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