Thank you to everyone who submitted a story to the nonfiction portion of the Winter in the Bay writing contest. Today, Jesusa Hunt brings us morning coffee and a reflective moment, and Tam Hill contemplates nature.
A Present Grace
My eyes are closed as I take a slow deep breath welcoming in the scent of freshly brewed coffee. My mind wanders to assess what my plans are for the day and as it races, I start to picture the list of errands in my mind. I continue to add more while my eye movements follow inside my head as if reading, first to the right, then to the left and then back again.
“Focus!” I say to myself forcing my mind back to the scent and the warmth of the coffee. The time for errands can wait. Attempting to quiet my mind, to focus on the moment, and positive thoughts is a challenge. Events of 2020 have made it almost impossible to be positive not only for me but, I’m sure, for everyone.
I hold the warmth of the cup close to my chest, as once again my mind flashes on mundane subjects, all negative and cautionary; lists that contain preventative measures and, “in case of…” situations piling up on one another like books ready to tip over; as it bends to fall I take one deep breath, and in a sigh of surrender, my eyes open.
Once more I sigh, this time not of exasperation but of revelation. My face lightens. Looking through my living room window, the sun is shining and the fresh snow has made clean white hills scattered across the yard while the ground is covered in a blanket of white. The green of the trees peek through the white of the snow resting on its branches as the tree quietly and reservedly takes it’s pressure. The view of St. Margaret’s bay in the winter is still and luminous,
while the small islands block a straight route to the open waters of the ocean. Like music, water drips from the glistening icicles hanging along the edge of the roof.
I tilt my head towards the light to find that the moment has stilled my mind of chaos, of boredom, and of negativity and has replaced it with newness, hope, beauty and a present grace.
Jesusa Hunt illustrated her story with Margo Mosher-Swain’s “Winter Storm in the Bay.” To read Margo’s inspiration for her painting, visit the Winter in the Bay online gallery and click on the image of the work.
Where Go the Ducks in Winter?
In winter, the ice-covered lakes and ponds of St. Margaret’s Bay are frozen in time. Frogs lie dormant in the mud with antifreeze in their blood, but where do the ducks go? I first followed the duck pond cycle when I interfered with it one winter.
One fall, a black duck and her two ducklings stopped by our pond. To encourage their stay, I threw sunflower seeds into the pond, since bread sticks in their throats. In a few weeks they grew accustomed to me and eager for free food. They told their friends, and their friends told their friends. By November, there was a fearless flock of 60 black ducks, mallards, and hybrids, following me around the yard by day, and roosting on nearby Stillwater Lake for safety at night.
But what should I do with them in the coming winter? I learned that ducks, although omnivores, should eat aquatic invertebrates during winter because they need to store the calcium from invertebrates to lay hard eggshells in the spring. So, I stopped feeding them, and in four days, as winter ice formed, they gave up and migrated. With climate change, most ducks in Nova Scotia are sticking around all winter, migrating only locally, from frozen lakes to open coastal waters. The frozen lakes and ponds lie in peaceful, bleak, suspension.
In March as ice melted, ducks remembered our pond and returned, a few at a time. Ducks, unlike geese, do not mate for life. In March, unpaired ducks pair up on “pairing ponds”. Females lure in males with loud quacking, then, with wild chases over ice and water, male suitors sort out who wins the female. Then the happy couple flies off to a larger lake with more food, to nest. This match dot pond goes on for weeks.
Now, in the silent stillness of February, I know March madness is just a month away, when half frozen ponds and lakes will come alive with duck fights, then frogs, then loons, and the pond life cycle will begin again. For me, winter is waiting for life to return.
Tam Hill illustrated this story with Mary Lynne MacKay’s “Frozen Lake.” To read Mary Lynne’s inspiration for her painting, go to the Winter in the Bay online gallery and click on the painting.