between our steps 02 05 20 double
Monday night the sunset on the Lake Huron Shore must have been spectacular. We can't see the western sky because the escarpment shelters our house. To the east, however, the water and sky were a pale pink from horizon to horizon. Everything was dusted with the gentle colour of the setting sun.

The surface of the lake is always moving these days. There is no ice on the water.  Waves lap in a gentle rhythm some days, pound the shoreline on others. The ducks seem happy with this, though I can't see what the mallards are finding to eat. If they were mergansers I could guess: they dive to the bottom to find the little fish that we saw last summer who are now hiding among the rocks. We haven't watched mergansers dive this year. They are wintering elsewhere. It's mallards we see.

Ice covers our shore well and coats the east side of trees that stand at the edge of the water. The rocks on the outer edge of the neighbour's breakwater are bare this year. Last year, a glacial buildup made them look twice their size. This year, warmish water washes over them, dissolving any ice. Nearer the shore, two rocks that stand higher above the water are coated in white.

To me, the water feels icy cold, but it is not freezing. When the wind picks up, we can see clouds forming, carrying snow inland. It is not hard to guess who is getting snow. On a still morning, on those few sunny ones that we have had, a gentle mist rises from the water. On the more common, cloudy mornings, the horizon is blurred. And there have been days when we could hardly see a hundred feet onto the bay because the fog there was so thick.  

Snow has covered the yard from house to water hiding everything. Right at the shore, the waves that lap the rocks have melted some of it. Looking out, I can see the pile that the Hallowe'en storm threw up on the metal frame of the dock. I started to unbury it, but even in November, the stones were frozen together. Now I look out at a task I will have to take up in spring.

Further from the water, snow still covers most of the yard with a few drifts and a couple spots where the ground shows through. Under the snow is a layer of ice from all the rain we've had. On the gravel driveway, however, the snow had completely turned to ice. Then, we got a dusting of snow, hiding the ice. What we could not see made the driveway treacherous.

Out for a walk on Tuesday afternoon, a fox raced across the road in front of us, then dove into the forest. A moment later, another dashed across a yard and into the forest along the road. Shortly, the first crossed the road again and headed for the shore. The second followed. Then a third. Where had it come from?

We heard the mallard ducks squawking. The three foxes had found their roost. We kept walking. Then, just twenty feet from us, a fox raced from the trees and along the road. A few seconds later, another followed the first. We stopped, waiting for the third, wondering how close it would come. It did not appear. Where had it gone?

This winter is a bit of a mystery. I've seen a cardinal, but not on our property. Every few days, a mourning dove or two show up, but where they are the rest of the time, I have no clue. The blue jays are always here and a few chickadees, but the nuthatches are a rare sight. I keep wondering if the lack of snow cover means it is easier for the birds to find food and don't need what I provide.

The turkeys have showed up to clean up what the blue jays and red squirrels spill. I have not yet seen the mallards trek across the snow to get their share the way they did in spring. They've come to the edge of the water, but given that I've seen a fox race across our yard a couple times, I think those birds are safer staying where they are.

Cathy Hird lives on the shore of Georgian Bay.




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