(Taken on another day)
Wanting to mull over difficulties I am having with an essay, I left my camera behind this morning. While climbing to the back door of the Gasteneau Meadow, I managed to glimmer a solution to the problem but had to give up trying to nail it down after we entered a wooded valley that leads to the open meadow. Distracted by puzzling animal tracks and sun barely penetrating a sky that could have been rendered by Edvard Munch on a good day, I could only observe.
I noticed how well the trees survived the recent snow and wind storms that did so much damage to the spruce and hemlock trees in our tidewater forests. Snow builds up on the old growth trees to damaging levels because they stand close together on good soil. The big trees can’t colonize the valley’s poor soil, leaving space for mountain hemlocks and stunted pines to spread out. The snow slips through their sparse branches or gathers in drifts around them.
Last night’s freeze left us a thick crust on the snow to walk on. I follow Aki, not realizing she is taking me off the trail until she slips into a thicket of pines I can not enter. With every inch of the thicket’s twigs, cones and branches covered with ferry frost, it looks like the product of a window dresser at Christmas.
I call Aki from her pretty nest and we climb onto the meadow where she rolls on the snow. Feathers of hoar frost fly off her back when he gives a shake of pleasure. I find a broken pine branch, maybe four inches long. Through its thick frost covering I can see two pairs of burls. These beautiful bumps might have been caused by pests, infection or environmental stress. At home, wanting to appreciate the product of so much pain or stress, I sketch the branch in black ink, caressing its curving protuberances with motion lines, emphasizing its dark hollows with unrelieved black ink.