Sunday, August 19, 2012

Winter Morning Shadow Plays

            One of my favorite childhood memories or maybe even adult memories involves casting finger shadows of rabbits, birds, and other creatures onto a blank wall.  Recently, I discovered Mother Nature playing her own shadow games on Big Creek below my kitchen window. On weekend mornings, I look forward to seeing what sorts of fun the “old girl” can concoct using barren branches, agile squirrels, and flitting birds.

            A number of factors come into play for this shadow extravaganza to take place.  First of all, we have water in the creek this winter so there is something to provide a reflection.  Also, the creek has not frozen for long periods due to the unseasonably warm temperatures, which helps provide a reflective surface for Mother N.  Secondly, the temps are chilly enough to invigorate the squirrels and birds, but not so cold as to force them into still, huddled efforts to preserve energy.

The air also seems to be unnaturally clear—no fog, no mist, no moisture of any kind to obscure the reflected images. Finally, weekends provide me the opportunity to be home around 8:30 a.m. when the sun arrives in just the right spot to sharply silhouette a myriad of cottonwood, ash, and locust shadows onto the creek.

            What I see when I look out the window onto Big Creek is a most unusual circus.  Shadows of furry, acrobatic figures chase one another from one high branch to another up and down the bank, seeming to fly as they make big leaps across open space.  I suspect last May’s tornado may have opened a bit more space than the squirrels were used to based on some of the stretches they make as they jump. 

However, that doesn’t seem to faze them as they launch themselves from tree to tree across a space that spans a distance of about 300 feet.  They blast off across open territory with the fearlessness of the Flying Wallenzas. 

            Every now an then I spot one of the reflected creatures performing a flip or winding itself artfully around a branch to enhance the morning show.  Working in tandem, several of them get a choreographed chase scene going that rivals the breathtaking chase in The Thomas Crown Affair.  In addition to the reflections of diving, leaping, twirling squirrels, the shadows of big and little birds hover and dart in and out of the shadow scenes.  Where to look first becomes the morning challenge.  Who cares about coffee?

            I don’t know how I have missed this show before unless this year’s presentation has way more to do with the combination of factors mentioned above—the unnaturally warm temperatures and the lack of moisture in the air that provide clarity we wouldn’t normally have on a winter morning.  Whatever the reasons, I plan to enjoy this shadow play at every available opportunity.

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