Today, I rode down in another guide’s boat on a one boat trip. The day was spectacularly sunny, no clouds, warm enough and a little breezy. I basically quit paddling early on so as not to over power the guests which was fine by me (and the guide). As I was sitting in the back at customer level, I couldn’t see what was up ahead or how the guide was maneuvering around the rocks and through the rapids; an odd place and situation for me to be in a raft. Knowing and trusting the guide, I decided I didn’t need to pay attention to the River at all. I was consciously keeping my feet securely tucked and my center of gravity squarely inside the raft in case we hit something hard. I had NO intentions of swimming as the water is literally freezing. But not worrying about the water, I was able to concentrate on the gorge itself. I saw features I had never seen before, even though this is my 21st year guiding the Hudson Gorge. With no leaves yet, many things are visible right now that are hidden for most of the season. But when you are guiding, you do not have time to look for them. Today I was able to experience the spectacular scenery the gorge is famous for. As the raft slid through waves and splashed through hydraulics, I was seeing the trip from a completely different perspective. I was fascinated by the way the sun cast tree dark shadows across the blue snow covered steep hillsides on the shady side of the river. I saw how snow was considerably deeper under the shade of the hemlock and ceder trees, and the way ice piled up on the river’s edge making sculptures and formations full of multi-colored hues of blue, green, white, and purple. In some places the ice is piled thicker than a house is tall. The bare deciduous trees on the sunny side of the river had no snow on the bare brown leave covers ground. Through the branches I found secret tall cliffs with intricate and complex rock formations, secluded veiled creeks with cold water splashing over moss covered rocks as it swiftly falls down the mountainside, and hidden animal trails traversing the steep and rocky hillsides. I was completely caught up in the grand and mystical essence of time immortal, of majestic mountains and roaring rivers, I reached out and touched life and the Goddess within me rejoiced.
YES! A thousands times YES! I am back on the River! This is where I belong! This is where I am the me I want most to be! It has been a long, cold, rough, hard winter. Spring is here, the River is flowing, and I am home once again! Last night was cold and the morning came very early with birds chirping as the sun rose. The water is frigid and I am layered to stay warm. Getting into the dry-suit was a particular challenge. I didn’t think 10 pounds would make as much of a difference as they do… I may look like a sausage stuffed into a yellow Gor-tex casing, but I won’t freeze today. My nerves play havoc in the morning like they do every year for the first trip. Am I strong enough? Am I good enough? Will the River grant me safe passage? Will I screw up? How badly? What will I forget to bring? At some point you just have to ignore the questions and get on the bus to put in! And I was concerned with my wrist as this it its ultimate stress test.
YES! A thousands times YES! I am back on the River! This is where I belong! Actually today was an easy day, the River isn’t high yet because it has been too cold to facilitate much melting, and I had a small boat with two trainees in it. One guy really just needs stick time, so I let him guide most of the river, giving him pointers, suggestions, and helpful hints about the rapids. With only two paddlers we paddled a lot and it was good! My wrist did fine but was extremely tired and a little sore by the end (as was the rest of my body). Very good first trip of the season!
So today was cold and rainy with frozen bits in the rain on the windshield as I drove north to the Adirondacks. It is going to a cold night, but I don’t care. There are ways to stay warm in a tent… When I get there, I take my time unwrapping the tent and raising the tarp up again. Everything is completely dry inside! It all survived last weekend’s ice storm with flying colors. I decided to leave the smaller tarp covering the top of the tent with the silver side down with the idea that it might hold in some of my body heat later tonight when it’s 20 degrees outside. There is still a lot of snow on the ground and I am using snowshoes to travel up and down the hill. The last thing I need is to fall again. I got everything arranged the way I like it, and before the sun had set I climbed into a snuggley warm fleece and then under the blankets and sleeping bags. I put hand warmers in my gloves, socks, and hat. It felt good to feel them warm up and get hot, kind of like the comfortable feeling as the water warms up in a shower. Although it took a long time to warm up the bed, it did eventually get cozy as I watched the light fade quietly into darkness. I listened to bare branches rubbing against each other in the breeze, and to other night sounds a sleeping forest makes. Although I relish sleeping in this tent, and when I’m sleeping, it is a deep and peaceful sleep, I still wake up several times at night. Usually just to roll over (an athletic endeavor with the heavy covers) and go back to sleep. I am also excited just to be here with the prospect of being back on the River tomorrow. Waking briefly, hours later, the clouds dissipated and the half moon shone its shivery silvery light softly illuminating the tent. There is nothing better in the world than this moment here and now, bathed in moonlight on a cold spring night.
While driving to the post office to get the mail, I noticed another sure sign of Spring; the Pussy Willows are out! In a wet area next to the road, the bushes stand tall and tangled, bare branches weaving into grey sky. I slowed the car to get a better look; the small oblong fuzzy white buds have become pronounced, swollen and ready to pop open into tiny fluorescent yellow green leaves. I would love to pick some to bring inside and watch them grow, but the felines of the house would have other idea about what to do with plant cuttings. Soon, very soon, there will be green leaves, warm air, and lazy sunny days, and this dismal winter will be a fading memory. So now I am cheered, inspired, and renewed as more signs of Spring evolve every day. My heart sings with joy and optimism.
As evening was falling, a furious snow flurry blew through, completely covering everything with a delicate white blanket. With thick heavy snow falling, the deer showed up again. My husband saw them first, out in the yard near the garden, where I had seen them the other day. I am sure it’s the same four deer. One is slightly smaller, and the largest (fattest, maybe she is pregnant?) is a nervous Nelly, constantly looking around in between bites of grass. I had noticed that there are actually some green blades of grass coming up through the matted brown from last year. They are munching as much of it as they can as the large heavy snowflakes flutter and swirl around them. They paw the ground and munch and chew, moving slowly through the yard. Snow covers their furry brown backs and does not melt. The fur must be excellent insulation! Their black noses glisten in the half light of blue evening twilight. They make their way up the hill into the woods and circle around to the back of the house. I move up to the bedroom window to watch their meandering. The cats watch too, perched on the window sill, eyes round and wide with wonder. It brings a peaceful feeling to watch these deer move quietly through the forest.
Cold, dreary, grey, day, wet snow flurries cover the grass and tree branches in slushy white lace that slowly melts away. Little Black Cat is perched in the front window sill, muscles tense, whiskers twitching, tail lashing back and forth in frustrated anticipation, uttering short squeaky trills. I look out the window to see what has her so excited. There are squirrels on the porch and chipmunks on the ground under the bird feeders. As I watch their taunting antics, I notice an olive colored goldfinch on the feeder, and think they should be molting soon into their summer colors. Just then, a Gold gold finch flies up to get a meal (the other one is probably a female). He is bright, almost fluorescent yellow, a small fluttering piece of living sunshine come to earth, a shining beacon on this soggy grey day. Spring is trying to spring, even if we are supposed to get more snow!
Gloomy grey dreary day, low hanging fuzzy grey sky, cold drippy grey rain on top of last night’s layer of ice granules, moist grey air swirling through the dark bare trees. My skin prickles into goosebumps just thinking about stepping outside. I watch bedraggled wet birds on the feeders and hope they each have a warm dry protected nest to curl up in later. The cats are all napping, gently snoring, even they don’t have the energy to face the grey half light of this day. I have wandered into the kitchen for probably the 25th time in the last couple hours looking for something appetizing to munch on. Gee, it’s the same gloomy options I had 10 minutes ago… I can’t seem to settle into any task. Glancing out the rain spattered window, I notice movement out in the yard. My attention zooms in, yes , past the bare tangled mass of honey suckle bush branches, there is something out there in the rain. I move to a different angle for a better view through the web of branches and realize its a white tailed deer. Cool! I know they are everywhere here and we see them all the time, but I rarely see them in the yard. They have so much forest and fields to choose from, they just don’t hang around the house that often (that we notice anyway). I watch the deer for a long time. She is nervous, looking up from her grazing between mouthfuls, watching for unknown dangers. She takes a few steps as she chews and I see there are at least two others with her eating the meager grass the lawn has to offer after this long winter. I am mesmerized by these creatures. They are winter thin, but still muscular under their shaggy brown coats. I see a 4th deer, smaller then the others, a young one, maybe one of last year’s fawns. I am now sure this is the same group my husband and I saw a few days ago half a mile down the road out across a field next to the creek. That day was sunny, and when they saw us, their tails went up flashing white as they pranced further away toward a tree covered area. The young one leaping for pure joy in the warm spring sunlight. Today they are wet and matted, but watching them move slowly across the lawn, graceful movements as they eat, fills me with wonder and peace. I know this cold rain will not last forever.