Monday, December 18, 2017


My friend, C, who is as close to a sister as anyone I have known, referred one day to my canoeing as a ritual that I perform as part of my art process.   I've always been a bit tongue tied as to how to describe my "canoe thing"...sometimes it just takes a friend to put the right vocabulary out there.

I put in by the sea with the temperature at about freezing, the sky heavily overcast, the winds calm, and the tide just approaching high.  It has been some time since I've been out, the weather being too gusty or too snowy on my free days to even think about setting out.  Even today I hesitate with the idea expecting cold and little to see...time lets one build up bigger walls than there really are.
I head up the Neck, then Bailey Creek, and then into the Sneak.  I flush a few Black Ducks and a few Hoodies (Hooded Mergansers), but overall it is quiet.  The Sneak is open with some floating chunks of ice until I reach the high spot.  I suppose this high spot is an inch higher than either end, but it is where the currents meet or divide with the tides.  So, it is the most still section of the Sneak and here I find a 100 yards of solid ice.  But, with the tide high, there is an open channel to the side of the ice, the ice having conveniently taken the shape of the Sneak at a mid tide level. I paddle past and back into open water.
At the Big Bends I flush a mixed flock of a hundred ducks (mostly Blacks) and a hundred Canada Geese.  It is impressive to see and hear.  As I continue through the last of the Big Bend I continue to flush Geese and Ducks from the shallow pannes in the marsh as well as from the river.  I figure a tally of five hundred easily before I am alone.

There is more ice in the river above the Arch Bridge.  This all makes sense if one pays attention to the vegetation.  Cattails have replaced the spartina...this indicates fresh water instead of salt...and a freezing temperature 4 degrees higher.  None of it interferes with my route other than to cause me to perform some pleasant zigs and zags.
I turn from the bend above Foote Bridge and ride a gentle ebb current back.  In the lower marsh I spot a Northern Harrier...obvious by head shape and bright white rump patch.  It is my second sighting of a Harrier this fall.  The clouds thin and the light comes through and the marsh becomes a spectacular scene of golden grasses under deep blue clouds.

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