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Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Ice Storm Patrollers

Ice Storm Patrollers
a haibun for Marvin Orbach

For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snow storms and rain storms, and did my duty faithfully; surveyor, if not of highways, then of forest paths and all across-lot routes, keeping them open, and ravines bridged and passable at all seasons, where the public heel had testified to their utility.

Henry David Thoreau
from WALDEN, first section "Economy", 1854

A major ice storm hit Ontario last Friday, and for several days it was unwise, basically impossible, to drive. Exploring the beautiful results of the storm wasn't possible until yesterday, Monday. Chase & I visited one of our favourite trails on the rocky plateau above the village. I call these the water tower trails.

ice storm
fleshes the bones
of old tipi sticks

Walking was very difficult. Fortunately Chase and I found a snowmobile track sunken under the ice crust and were able to crunch along above it. After a half mile the snowmobiler had circled back, and hiking was far more difficult. I sank heel deep with each step, while Chase skidded on top, enabled by his 'four-wheel-drive'. Walking was so laborious for me we didn't continue far. On the return hike, I noticed an ethereal surprise in the unblemished snow:
each footprint
bodhisattva blue

Day 2: The Reeve's Trail

This trail is part of the greater trans-Canada Trail, which was originally the old CNR railroad tracks. The rails were removed decades ago, but fortunately the rail bed was acquired and turned into long stretches of our national trail. It is extremely rare for Chase and I to encounter another hiker. The only humans we see are snowmobilers whizzing past at high speed in the winter, and ATVers in the milder weather. Chase and I enjoy our daily exercise and appreciate nature at an enjoyable pace. The crazed riders enjoy bruised kidneys and the aroma of small whining engines. The fuel scent lingers for minutes after their passing in cold weather. 


stunted dogwood swamp
magick fairyland today

boring stretch of trail
transformed to crystalline

facing the sun
the whole swamp glistens


Chase & I turn our backs on the sun to start the return hike to the car. Sadly, the magick crystal swamp has returned to its usual dross colour. How can this be? Without the sun's brilliant magnification, the ice no longer reflects. Also the sun has also melted the ice on the south side of the cattails and dogwoods. Same swamp, two visions.


sun behind us
the swamp returns
to dull browns

looking back
crystal magick returns
with the sun's eye

lone black wing
swoops off the slag heap
this magick day

On day two the ice surface has hardened enough to bear my weight. I think of the sweet bread pudding I baked last night with its brown sugar crust. Tonight the forecast is for 25 below - no melt forecasts more ice magick tomorrow. 


Day 3: Water Tower Trails Again

It's a Christmas Day tradition to hike a certain section of these trails before Christmas dinner with my friend Morley and his family. While I hike I remember the image of the Christmas Day Chase & I flushed a snowshoe rabbit from a brushpile on this plateau.

faint sun
makes new magick:
all is silver-white


Even the daily high temperature has remained far below freezing since the ice storm visited. These sub-zero temperatures are tempering the ice crust to a steel-like hardness. Now it is a rare surprise when I fall through the crust. The edges are knife sharp, and I have a gouge on my thumb from one of these stumbles.

I worry that small animals may be trapped in their burrows by this once-in-many-decades ice storm. It would be reassuring to see tracks, but


even humans
leave no tracks now
in the frozen woods


Chris Faiers/cricket
Christmas Day 2013

Sunday, Dec. 29 : Thaw Day

I took Chase for a great ramble at Callahan's Rapids Conservation. Haven't been there in a month. I tried to explore the 'haunted woods' section by the rapids, but the thaw was in effect today, & I realized I couldn't make the round trip I like to do because the little creek was no longer frozen. So Chase & I hiked back to the parking lot, over the bridges, & took the little side trail which comes out in Riverside Pines.

Because of the thaw birds & little animals were finally out & about today. The warmer weather created a mist which made the hike feel like we were walking thru some primordial soup. From the bridges:

thaw day
beaver's slap a monk's tap

Lots of falling ice & snow in the woods. It sounded like large invisible beings were tromping around in the woods, & a few times large chunks fell dangerously close to us.

We hiked for almost 2 hours, & I was so hungry I went to the Ranch by myself for crispy chicken. When I got home at 4:30 there were emails from Jim & Virginia, & another one from Gail. So I left Chase to warm up & drove back to El Rancho for a holiday drink with Jim & Virginia.

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Ancestral Roofs has left a new comment on your post "Ice Storm Patrollers":

Thanks Chris for this lovely wander through the ice storm woods - such dangerous beauty and now all signs gone, just broken branches to remind us where the ice lay heavy.
You two keep well.

Posted by Ancestral Roofs to Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens at 30 December 2013 07:04

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Friday, January 10, 2014: Wraiths on the Water Tower Trails

Hi Marvin,

Thanks for letting me know the 2 UMBRELLAS arrived OK. I'm pleased I was able to feature the work of Martin Durkin in one, & that of Kathy Figueroa & Ursula Pflug in the other.
The small package of ephemera should arrive early next week. Chase & I were finally able to hike on our favourite trails for the first time in a week this  aft - first it was the ice storm & then the arctic vortex making hiking dangerous & unpleasant. Chase had a great time, it's hard to believe he's around 16 years old & not still a puppy sometimes. I'm still enjoying my time with HDT - about 90 pages to go.

Chase bounding
over fresh snow
and scary tracks  

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Arctic Vortex Aftermath

There are no gods in the wilderness
only wolves remain scavenging
in the four corners of the savage winds,
angels are made of black iron
refrain from kissing their frozen feet,
in the tangle of crushed trees
a flurry of fur and tails,
monkeys are returning.

Katherine L. Gordon
frozen January, 2014.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014: Changes

Hi Katherine,
Many thanks for your poem"Arctic Vortex Aftermath". I've done something a little different with it - I've been adding daily haibun to a posting I initially started about the ice storm, but then I have continued adding posts, including my last one about the arctic vortex. So what I've done is add your poem as another link to this 'renku' (linked) sequence. I think it works???
peace & poetry power!

Chris & Chase Wrffffffffffffffzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!  - both very full after a big dinner - today's hike was a major one way back to the 'shaman ponds' on the old quarry properties behind ZenRiver. We encountered a lot of wildlife for a change. Perhaps nature is also restless after the recent overwhelming wintery intrusions. At the start of the hike a young doe, perhaps 3 years old, bounded across the trail within 50 feet of us. Later, another startled adventurer:

ghost rabbit
boots over the trail
ears still brown

When we started the hilly & dangerous return journey from the distant ponds, a pair of crows noisily flew overhead (Milt & Al?). Close to where we saw the first deer 2 yearlings slipped into the woods. By the main quarry a woodpecker was busy tap-tapping for hidden snacks in low lying scrub thorn trees.

both trees I signed
by the shaman ponds
gone this wild winter 


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Sunday, January 19, 2014:  Sewage Bay Swamp

Today I took Chase for an hour hike on the Sewage Plant trails. It was snowing quite heavily, & we enjoyed our first annual visit thru the frozen swamp to 'sewage bay'. It's a haunting place - only accessible in the height of winter freeze-up, & even more haunting in the midst of an increasingly heavy & windy snow storm. There was a very ramshackle lone ice hut on the little bay - it would have made an interesting picture (by the marge/of Lac Labarge).

camo canoe
resting against
winter cut stumps

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1 comment:

Ancestral Roofs said...

Thanks Chris for this lovely wander through the ice storm woods - such dangerous beauty and now all signs gone, just broken branches to remind us where the ice lay heavy.
You two keep well.