I sit facing the river, the way I sat last time, the first time we came out by Gilman to observe. I set my Crazy Creek in the concave base of a tree, a base that as you trace up separates into two other trees. Is this considered just one tree? or am I sitting below three trees for the price of one? I’m comfortable; my legs are extended on a root that has made its way up from the ground, and my backpack, full of distractions, hangs on a branch beyond my reach and thoughts. Every now and then the wind visits, and the one/three trees shudder, only to sprinkle or even drop lumps of snow and water onto me. My rite-in-the-rain seems to be thoroughly wet, and I’m satisfied that I’m so equipped to withstand the elements.
I take little notice of the snow, for it had been with us for so long. Until in the distance, across the thawing river, snow comes crashing down from what looks like a hungover tree. It protrudes from the ground at an angle, and the snow falls without any warning, the way one’s digestive system might reject its contents suddenly. Other things fall, beyond my sight, but land with a soft thud onto the ice.
However, instead of embracing the last glimpses of my last winter in Exeter, I focus on the tree beside me. I knock on it. Knock on wood, my friend Andrew always says. I think I heard him say that whenever a conversation about college came up. I could never understand why the touch of wood could change the fate of our college decisions, or rather the fate of anything. Nature has a mind of its own, and it will run its course at some point or another. I write in my journal: “The tree bark looks so worn, yet when I touch it, it is hard and sturdy. It sounds hollow when I knock on it, the timid sound that a door would make when a hesitant person knocks on it. But from that sound, that touch, I immediately know it’s a real tree. At flower shops or home decoration places, there are always the pots of flowers that look deceivingly, colorfully real. But the moment I touch it, the plastic-like smoothness and solidity immediately tells me it is fake.” There is something unique about the world that is not man-made, and by the touch or sound or smell, one can immediately distinguish that it’s not what we had crafted. Technology tries so hard to mimic and copy nature, but sometimes I think why not just utilize the damn thing rather than copying it!
Today, we ventured into the woods south of Gilman Park to sit at our observation spots as we endured a clumpy, cement-like snow. The steady plop plop plopping of clumps sloughing into the river framed for us an erratic drumbeat, and hemlock covered hillocks we reached across ice only last week lay inaccessible now across expanses of water. Earlier, just past the cannons, we traced the tracks of robins startled by this unexpected prolongation of winter–tracks in side by side pairs, then alternating singles, then none at all where the bird hopped, then skipped, then lifted itself into the air so that its final track was the faintest hint of its wingtips brushing the snow before it lifted clear.