My watch is dead weight on this walk along Fish Creek. Like the woods and meadows, I must use other markers of time. Days of deepening cold have thickened pond ice, opening up new avenues across the swampy meadows. Having considered the pond ice unsafe since a mother and child broke through and drowned on a prior February day, I reached out in a panic when Aki wandered onto the ice. After spotting bubbles trapped several inches below her paws, I relaxed and followed her onto the pond,
We regain the trail on the opposite shore. Without hinderance from wind or snow for days, thick layers of hoar frost have coated the thicket of dormant salmon berry brush we pass through to reach the beach. In the few hours since the last high tide, the cold has managed to turn the tidal flood waters into an opaque slurry; decorate the golden beach grass with thousands of frosty Moravian stars.
Leaving the sunny beach, we enter Hemlock woods along the upper creek. The cold has not had the time to silence the stream, only managing to erect icy barriers to slow the water. Low temperatures have driven the forest’s small mammals into dens where they rest in a state of torpor, preserving energy during this winter famine. Frost from the hibernators’ breath has formed white bands around the dens, each another measurement of time.