Have you ever hiked by a river in winter? The cold and haze lay all around like a shroud. The ice grips the flow, seemingly. But here and there the water’s movement breaks through. The hiss and murmer assertively claim life. The ducks congregate. The promise of greater melt-waters comforts the heart. The chill is, after all, only transitory. The snow-laden evergreens wait for spring like indomitable sentinels. The hollow of the water-course shelters from any harsh winds.
A walk by the river in winter
My Father and I undertake.
The bush is all glaze from the ice-storm,
Affording a needed wind-break.
The City with all its white panic
Seems much farther off than in fact.
The Country calls us to adventure,
With lunch and hot drinks duly packed.
We’ve done this before, but in springtime
With wildflowers and vine in the bloom.
But this day holds different promise,
Somewhere in the gray and the gloom.
The trees are bereft of their songsters
Save only one brave chickadee,
Who scolds from his perch in the low brush,
My Father and I cannot see.
Approaching a bend in the river
My Father, with much softer gait,
Binoculars pulled for a sighting,
And signaling me just to wait,
Steps out to the clearing at shoreline,
Where ice has been broken away,
By storm sewer’s much warmer waters,
And ducks are out there, and at play.
The first that I see are just landing,
With synchronized drop, skimming wake,
And greeted by others assembled.
What strange, raucous music they make!
The mallards, mergansers and pin-tails
Who CHUTTER and MUCK and RANK-RANK.
My Father and I are now laughing
In spite of ourselves, at the bank.
He watches their moods and their movements,
Their matchings and sparrings and play,
Their discourse and dunkings and flappings.
My Father’s their student today.
And with insight gained from the outing
Will turn to the woodcarver’s skill,
And fashion remarkable likeness
Of feather and pose, wing and bill.
Now this is the best kind of hunting.
To live and let live is the way.
And trophies we’ll have of the visit,
And memories of this good day.
I may be a teen in a tempest
With thoughts much too awkward to tell;
But here with the ducks and my Father,
I know that he knows me quite well.
Doug Blair, Waterloo, ON