Saturday, February 2, 2013

Winter woes and wonders

A couple of nights ago the howling wind woke me, and I prayed the hundred-foot pines surrounding our Massachusetts house would bend and not break.

In the morning, I learned that my daughter had lost power at her house, and she had dressed her toddler and baby in winter coats to keep them warm.

My son awoke to a call with the news that the roof of the steel building that houses his workplace had peeled off like the top of a sardine can.

This wild weather worries me.

Similarly, my mother had a sleepless night, thinking about the summer house. So my parents drove to Rhode Island to check for damage.

Stopping near the water’s edge, my mother watched the wind-whipped waves pound the shore with a vengeance; but she found the house sleeping peacefully in the sunshine.

Winterized and unable to generate heat or light, the house hibernated waiting patiently for our return, she assured me.
"Come when the rains / Have glazed the snow and clothed the trees with ice, / While the slant sun of February pours / Into the bowers a flood of light," wrote nineteenth-century romantic poet William Cullen Bryant, a New England native.

Today we head to Sapowet Management Area, a wildlife preserve on the east bank of the Sakonnet River, a short distance from our summer home near Fogland State Beach.
Jumping out of the truck with my camera, I brave the cold, creeping quietly along the frozen terrain and trying to catch a colony of seagulls unaware.

Those offended by my trespass flap their wings in annoyance, but most plainly ignore me.

Despite the frigid temperatures at this estuarine intertidal wetland, the Ring-Billed Gulls congregate on the icy bank, with their white heads and underparts blending into the white world around them.

Their wingtips are black with white spots, their bills yellow with a black ring near the tips.

From December through February, their habitat is our New England coastlines, and today they are right at home in this Arctic paradise.

I shoot photos until my fingers are numb with cold, then run back to the truck.

As I climb in, I hear the good news.

According to groundhog “Punxsutawney Phil,” an early spring is on the way.

When the groundhog emerged from his burrow this morning, he didn’t see his shadow.

What a relief!

Despite the prediction, I leave my hood and gloves on for a few miles, until the heater finally kicks in.

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