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The Whitehurst Diaries: Walking Along Big Creek
Accompanying photo album will be added shortly - CM
Click on headline for the complete text with linked photos as added
By Sharon Whitehurst
I huddled in my rocking chair before dawn on Saturday morning, listening to the shriek of the wind in the chimney.
I had letters to write, a mug of tea on the small table beside me. Several of the cats demanded 'out', so I went to the sliding door that opens onto the back yard.
The yard light mounted over the garage door cast a yellow-green pool of illumination that faded off into the dark fields beyond. Snowflakes skirled and danced. The boy-cats teetered on the step, ears flattened against the south wind that ruffled their fur and rattled through the frost-seared leaves of sage and lavender in the herb garden.
Pulling the heavy curtain across the door, I hurried to put another chunk of wood in the stove.
I wrinkled my nose, squinted my eyes at the puff of acrid smoke which sifted into the room.
The scent of a wood fire in early winter is homey, comforting, an aromatic tang that speaks of enclosing warmth and welcome shelter.
By late January, with fires stoked round the clock during a siege of frigid weather, the house has taken on a faintly bitter odor of smoldering coals and the sharp stale bite of the smoke that furls forth in that instant when the stove door is opened.
We notice it mostly when we have been outdoors breathing cold winter air and then step inside.
Daylight came slowly, a murk of grey overlaid with a thick veil of falling snow.
The boy-cats were happy to scamper inside to the warmth when I held open the back door, bracing myself against the gale.
Nellie looked at me with his wide owl-y eyes, seemingly amazed by the snow melting into his long fur.
Bobby's feet were cold, his tail swishing with indignation.
Charlie flung himself onto my towel-covered sewing box near the fire, as out of sorts as though the early venture into the cold had been forced upon him.
I stood at the window watching the rapidly whitening road and dooryard, thinking of long Vermont winters, of ice-coated windshields and hazardous, though mercifully short, commutes to work.
The storm blew itself out by noon, leaving soggy snow heaped beneath a pewter sky.
We ate lentil soup and cinnamon bread, sat by the fire.
A hint of color glowed behind the woods as dusk came on.
The sun sailed aloft in a brilliant blue sky on Sunday, snow melted in the warmth of a January thaw.
There was a freshness in the air which lured me outside.
I pegged a small quilt on the line where it billowed gently.
The ground squelched beneath my boots as I crossed the yard, averting my eyes from the frost-ravaged herb garden.
The shimmer of sunlight on the loop of Big Creek lured me across the road, my new camera on its strap around my neck.
At the ford of Big Creek, below our house the water is shallow, running over the flat seamed rock of the creek bed. Leafless trees loom over their distorted reflections.
I thought of working on quilt blocks this afternoon, but the delight of remaining outside on a mild day after weeks of enduring cold trumps returning to the stuffy house.
Walking along the road I wonder why I've never noticed the thick vine that clambers up a tree trunk on the sloping bank. The vine twists toward the top of the tree.
How many years have gone into its upward growth?
Moss cloaks the nearly horizontal trunk of a tree above the creek.
The road runs southerly along the base of a ridge, flanked on the opposite side by a wide meadow. Here the creek has made a loop away from the road.
On the shaded side of the road a grey bird bounces and scuffles, creating a tiny commotion beneath a sagging wire fence.
By the time I have the camera focused it has turned tail, ready to fly away.
Big Creek slices through the field to flow under the bridge above the Kemp farmstead.
Ice over the water is spongy, fragile.
I had thought to turn toward home at the bridge, but I am within sight of Matt and Gina's house, so I walk along, greeted in the driveway by the bustle of their dog.
Gina is in the back yard, gathering up twigs brought down by yesterday's wind.
Before we have time for more than a few words Jim wheels into the yard.
He strides toward us, huffy.
'You didn't tell me you were going for a walk!'
He is indignant.
I decide that accepting a ride home is the judicious thing to do.
Jim continues to sputter--about the vulnerability of [old?] women who walk along the road alone.
'It is daylight,' I protest, 'And surely I'm of an age that wouldn't appeal to an abductor!'
As I exit the van at our back door Jim remarks, 'Now that you're here, I need you to drive the Massey to tow the John Deere into the shop--it won't start.'
I put my camera in the house, trudge up the lane to the barn, climb aboard the red tractor, watching while J. attaches a tow strap to the green tractor behind me.
I wonder, but forebear to comment: perhaps Jim's concern for my where-abouts was more to do with needing me to tow the tractor than with the threat of being accosted by a malevolent thug on my Sunday stroll of a mile in the sunlight! - SHARON WHITEHURST
This story was posted on 2014-01-28 06:38:50
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