Life in a Northern Town

Houghton Falls Magic

Ten times a day something happens to me like this - some strengthening throb of amazement - some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.

Mary Oliver

It was the perfect day for a photo safari but we were fresh out of ideas. There's still at least three feet of snow on the ground and while I'm all for an adventure, slogging through thigh deep snow was a little ambitious for us. And then, like all good things who come to people who are indecisive, Julie suggested Houghton Falls. The river had backed up, froze, and then made a break for the Lake through the recently unfrozen railroad culvert— leaving huge sheets of ice hanging in the trees.

We heeded her advice, packed up George and Ted and headed out to yet another winter photo safari with ice as the star of the show. We hiked back towards the lake and slid down into the ravine. There wasn't an ice sheet to be seen but lots of mossy harbingers of spring growing on the brownstone walls. I thought I misunderstood Julie because everything looked as it should; a snowy ice-covered river winding through the brownstone, delicate and tenacious moss and spider webs and the cedars, hemlocks and birches overlooking the river bed. Until Ted said, "you've got to see this, it's unbelievable".

It was unbelievable— huge ice sheets hung from the trees and littered the ravine floor. In the midst of the sheer massiveness of the chunks of ice, there were the most beautiful icicles coating the trees, rocks and the undersides of the ice sheets. Will and I looked at each other and said, "it's a macro day" and spent a half an hour capturing the magic of water when it changes into ice.

The ice sheets removed tree bark when they collapsed— I can only imagine the booming and cracking when they started to fall.

The intricate beauty of the icicles was an interesting contrast to the massive pieces of ice.

When the water flowed to the Lake, the ice collapsed under its own weight— creating a small mountain range of huge shards of ice.

An echo of the high water mark etched in cedar.

Icicles recorded the departure of the river.

This has been a tough winter— sub-zero temperatures and over 100 inches of snow. Afternoons like this more than make up for the mind and body numbing cold and snow. It was magical.

The fluidity of cedar, exposed as the ice fell away.

The ice shelves looked like mini ice skating rinks, suspended four feet off the ground.

A single drop of amber water among a forest of crystal clear icicles.

The Wild Geese

Horseback on Sunday morning, harvest over, we taste persimmon and wild grape, sharp sweet of summer's end. In time's maze over fall fields, we name names that went west from here, names that rest on graves. We open a persimmon seed to find the tree that stands in promise, pale, in the seed's marrow. Geese appear high over us, pass, and the sky closes. Abandon, as in love or sleep, holds them to their way, clear, in the ancient faith: what we need is here. And we pray, not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye clear. What we need is here.

Wendell Berry