Treasure Hunting for the Light

Come get us when the coffee is ready

Richmond’s cold cut deep–a wet-cold that made bare hands on a morning walk a reminder of the winter ahead. Gloves would have been a help, but one can no more use gloves and connect with a camera than with a piano. (Fingerless gloves might be a stocking-stuffer if Santa is listening!)

I’d noticed the string of five ponds–they looked to be an acre or so in size–that were obviously created along what once was a spring-fed stream, now flanked by an office park, a landscape that compared to its original form was the Chihuahua compared to its wolf ancestor. Nevertheless, the flowing water could have been channeled underground in a cement tube instead.

Paved walkways gave access to the water that showed no sign of stagnation, and was well-populated with the usual suspects: Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, a Great Blue Heron or two. As I mentioned, there was at least one otter living in the third pond from the motel–or just passing through.

It was early enough that these two domestic ducks still had their heads tucked under their wings for warmth and to keep the lights dimmed until it warmed up a little more. Who could blame them?

This kind of urbanized setting is, as you may know, not my cup of tea. But even so, one can find “good light” and hope it falls on a composition that, extracted from asphalt and high-rises, can nevertheless hold some beauty or interest.

The fall foliage reflecting in the water showed far more color than remains in the mountains, where our trees are mostly as bare as they get, save for some persistent oak leaves and beeches that hold their leaves over winter until they become almost transparent–a condition I’ve written about before called “marcescence” which means “withering but not falling off.” Nice word.

Today do you feel marcescent? : > }

Published by fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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2 Comments

  1. At first I thought your two ducks were two stones, one atop the other as in a cairn. I was so busy looking at the reflected tree that I had to look again to see the ducks. I’m guessing that your leaves are still hanging on more than mine. The only leaves left on the trees here on Roundtop are the marcescent ones.

  2. Not quite marcescent yet, but getting there.
    Allen says he likes the fingerless gloves he got at a fishing store a long time ago. We avoid cold weather as much as possible, but he has used them occasionally.
    I’m glad you could find the beauty in an office park. Human designed nature isn’t my cup of tea either, but it sure beats nothing.

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