At 11:28 AM on December 21, a long shadow fell across the frozen surface of a shallow pool. Solst…ice.
There is a magical quality to ice, its translucence and shimmer immediately attracting kids who then, of course, need to slide and jump on it, shatter and collect bits of it.
Ice captures and preserves pieces of the past, brings death to some things and new life to others. In the Jemicy stream, frogs, salamanders and aquatic invertebrates wait out winter in the mud below, though sometimes we find them tucked under a log or in a shallow hole, seemingly frozen solid, one with the ice.
In my solstice shadow today, I spied movement. There were a few tadpoles wiggling sluggishly in the mud, but other creatures were swimming about just under the ice. A diving beetle made forays back and forth to a submerged log, while backswimmers scooted by near the surface. They slid along the underside of the ice, displaying their greenish ventral side, and then quickly dove away, startled by movement.
There were dozens of them active on a day when the air never got much above freezing, when the great blue heron kept one foot tucked near its warm belly as it ate lunch.
The cold wasn’t stopping the spiders either – they were hunting small flies along the bank. I wondered what the water temperature was, and how invertebrates could summon the energy to move at all, let alone actively forage there.
As Sol begins the long arc back up to summer solstice, I’m glad to see ice mark the beginning of winter.