A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life. ~Lewis Mumford
It’s early January. After a month of subzero temperatures, with some days near minus 30, today’s minus 6 feels almost balmy. The break in the weather means my regular walks can resume. The happy crunch of snow under boots lightens my step as I head for the Bow River in a favorite area of Fish Creek Park.
Fog rises. The river runs slowly, more slowly than summer, a virtual crawl compared to the spring run-off. Ice floats in loose shapes along the surface, pivoting around motionless branches that rise slightly above the steaming water. I do a double take as one disappears. The ambient light of dusk plays shadow games. I stop to focus and the “branch” resurfaces, now the unmistakable profile of a loon.
I check the other “branches.” At least half a dozen stationary loons face upstream, defying the current to carry them. They remain at a standstill except for an occasional dive. They are well equipped, seemingly impervious to the cold. I marvel at their Houdini skills as they disappear under the water and reappear many seconds later. I marvel at the mystery of how they can stay submerged for so long, how they can endure the temperatures of a frosty river.
I turn, smiling at their tricks, and pace myself to an ice float as I walk in parallel on the riverbank. Convenient for me, it travels at my pace. It reaches the bend where the snow covers the bank and rolls an icy blanket out into the current, then the ice float makes a slow turn around the barrier and begins to break up in the steaming rapids.
Not one to take foolish risks, I survey boot prints and animal tracks before venturing onto the ice near shore. Enough feet have tested the small path and marked its strength. On this frozen freeway, nature seekers gain closer proximity to water, wildlife and views and enjoy an unimpeded circle walk around this small slice of wilderness in the middle of Calgary.
My ears draw me on toward the roar. The river descends slightly, bowing to water’s rising applause. The resonance of water over rock blends with the near-mechanical whir of wings. Gaggles of Canada geese alight and take shelter together in the eddy behind an ice peninsula. Here again are beautiful creatures that manage to defy the elements. Their necks arch into the water, beaks seek nourishment beneath the frigid surface.
I continue walking and survey numerous animal tracks across the hillside. I muse whether they include tracks from the coyotes that have been frequenting my backyard, finding dry ground and shelter under the thick spruce. I notice rabbit tracks from those swift creatures that have escaped the coyotes. There are also deer tracks, perhaps from the same twin fawns—now grown—which I saw in the twilight of an early summer walk. Each track, each creature, are evidence of a Creator(1) that gives every good and perfect gift.(2)
As I return home, I recall the words of Lewis Mumford and agree. Today was beauty and mystery, the very exhibition of truth. It was a gift from my Creator. I have a rich life, indeed.