Ice on the Monocacy


While the winter solstice is a few days away, its spirit arrived last week, when temperatures plummeted and sleet and ice covered the ground in a white and crunchy coating. The winding tendrils of summer’s itchy hop plants have withered and drawn back from the encroaching freeze, revealing bottles, cans, and wrappers formerly hidden by the tenacious invasive’s spreading leaves. As my boys set shards of ice and small stones skidding across the Monocacy’s ice, I gather the debris, not only for the satisfaction of cleaning, but also to keep myself warm. This time of year, I always wonder at the small animals who do without hats and gloves and fleece-lined boots, like the little nuthatches, sparrows, house finches and wrens that play in the brush, or the small group of bluebirds I spotted in the trees. It makes me feel almost ashamed of my eagerness to return home to heat, light, and a big mug of tea.




Thinking about anything has been like slogging through mud lately, so facing the mental gymnastics of writing has been impossible. Whether Christmas, brain chemistry or lack of sleep is to blame, I have no idea, but I’ve been hanging on with a meagre and unhealthy diet of popular fiction. It’s fun while it lasts, but leaves me hungry and unarmed for the simple tasks of daily life.

Even in this half-wakeful state, I can walk through the woods and pick up the trash. A few days in a row, I found plastic bottles filled with balls of tin foil, like this:20161209_163649.jpg

I did puzzle over them a little but wasn’t completely suspicious until I found this alongside them:


When I googled this combination of objects, I found that, yes, I had a right to be suspicious. I immediately disposed of the objects (though the ammonia kept leaking through my bag) and carefully did not mention them to my boys, who would be all too interested in their explosive chemistry.

Fortunately, they’ve been distracted with their own, much less poisonous and more peaceful, project: the building of a shelter made of fallen branches. It is the perfect size for two boys, one adult, or a couple of curious dogs (and I know this because we’ve tested all such combinations). My oldest even used a bit of my trash to decorate its facade.


Because you can do more than one thing with an empty bottle.