Here it was a lovely winter morning. Snow in fat, fluffy flakes had been falling and after a couple of inches stopped as if on cue and a wintry sunshine now assails us. The Christmas tree is down and at present resides as a perch for the birds by the bird feeder which they frequent in numbers up to the 20's as long as it is filled, almost a daily job now.
I have walked my dogs to the back, taking a right turn at the pond instead of the normal left. To walk the north side of the big pond in back is to walk on its wild side. While a path runs around it, it is the path not often traveled. European reed taller than my head and not kept in check last year on this side, wave its feathery plumes over now dried stalks, closing off the shoreline on this side, now encased in a solid sheet of ice. I have seen the miraculous sight of otters in the waters in the early fall and sometimes in the spring, something I thought I would never see. In the spring and summer months all manner of water fowl call the pond home, the great Canada goose prominent among the lesser ducks. Wild turkeys also find the oak trees and acorn food supply enticing and nest year round. Pheasants light in the reed area and coyotes watch the dogs and I from their places of hiding as we pass. I have never seen a coyote in my meanderings at this pond, but they are there. The single line of tracks through fresh snow attest to it. A couple of willow trees hug the shore at one point, graceful in summer, their long leafy fronds sweeping the pond. In winter they seem an enchanted area with snow and hoar frost clinging to the long graceful branches now embedded in the ice. I am sure fish and turtles slumber beneath their exposed roots. A large white house has been built on one side of the pond, the opposite from where our land abuts it. It was built by a doctor and his wife from the Detroit area. Their bit of Canada we were told. They are seldom at the large farmhouse style building they had erected. For a time a brother would hunt the area during the deer seasons and erected deer stands in a couple of areas. One stands a stark sentinel in a low lying area against one tree. Camo sheeting flaps sadly in the wind, unattended and neglected in years of absence now. The dogs notice little of this, more interested in the scents that assail their noses, poking into snowy brackets of decaying pond growth, raising their heads, ears perked to a sound I can not hear.
I have walked this back for many years and with many dogs. A golden dog who's lumbering gait always reminded me she'd rather be eating. Two orange and white Brittany spaniels who delighted in this area and in late fall would be lost in the foliage. Their noses were always searching out birds and scents that would make them bark in eager anticipation. A big, yellow lab who took great pleasure in chasing everywhere and exasperating me after more than a few wild chases into the underbrush and fruitless calls to return. And now two black labs have been my companions. Always eager and ready to embark on whatever our rambles will bring us. While the seasons remain unchanging in my ramblings, the landscape has changed, from secluded sand pit, water seeping up only in the spring run off. For years it was only the path through the woods encircling this sand pit that I trudged, and then a trucking company bought it and took sand out of it for two years. After it lay untouched for a time, a rough pond where only a sand pit had been. A chance to sell the now exhausted sand/pond brought about a deepening of the pond and clearing of trees and brush to the edges. Perhaps development was the desire, but in the end it was sold to the doctor in total and the large house built, which stands largely empty encircled by an alarm system that erupts sometimes on clear cold nights and can be heard all the way to our place. The dogs and I like the quiet and the chance to walk in areas still wild but with a good path to meander. We do not disturb the house or yard and stop short of the drive and keep our walks to the other 3 sides of the large pond.
Just as the pond and woods seemed unchanging but have undergone a tremendous metamorphosis beneath my eyes almost without my noticing, things can change in an hour's time, in a minte's phone call from the hospital. A good friend received such a call from the hospital after a routine mammogram revealed a mass. I had talked to her twice yesterday and we laughed and joked about getting together tomorrow. Then came the note about the phone call. And just that fast the light went a bit dimmer in the day, and all that seemed right and content about winter, wasn't so much. We can never take for granted that beautiful winter morning, or the summer sunset, or the tulip blooming on the perfect spring day. The call of geese heading south on a November day. It all can change so fast. I pray that she will find in the follow up that the mass is a benign cyst, but once again I am reminded nothing is everlasting and time is so fleeting....