The draw of the dank frostiness of a marsh in morning in the late season of the year, the seasons where the sun stays low, where the forest remains deep in shadow, comes in the awakening that occurs when the sun brings its' heat and light to the cattails. The stillness that was dawn is replaced by the motions and calls of all of the marsh critters as they greet the sun.
I'm not particularly early in arriving at the marsh, but I do catch the tail end of the awakening. The birds are alert and flush early and energetically, they are out in the open seeking sustenance for the day's plan. I flush what seems to be forty mallards as I round Pocket Knife Bend although they may be black ducks...the sun is in my face and both species have similar shapes and calls. Two great blue heron fly off at the same time. By the time I reach the sawmill dam, I add four great blue herons and a lone osprey to the count. Footfalls in the forest surrounding the river are nothing more than acorns dropping from the oaks, the leaves on the ground amplifying the sound of anything as large as a squirrel into the racket of a deer in flight.
The stillness lifts when I reach the stone arch bridge, the wind rising in the trees, the acorns falling with more authority. The wet on the riverside tree trunks show the tide is down by 10 inches. The temperature has jumped several degrees just by leaving the forest behind as I enter the big marsh.
Yellow legs are the dominant shoreline wader here, the herons staying up near the forest, the willets that take over in summer long gone on their way south.
I enter the Sneak, the almost unknown passage across the marsh into Bailey Creek. It is last call for the Sneak, the tide dropping, the passage narrowing. I cross the high point just before reaching the creek with just a few inches of water beneath the canoe.
And then I paddle and put away the identifications and labeling. What I see is where I am, and when I get where I am going I will be where I am, and everything else is not here.
This Year's First Skunk
6 hours ago