Yesterday, the deep freeze began a measured retreat from our little corner of the world. Reminders of its recent campaign were everywhere, however.
Sleet and snow, some melted and refrozen, clung to the leafy surfaces at the wood's edge and filled the shadowy interstices of the forest itself. The road scrapings, shoved coldly aside by the harsh steel blades, still clung to the shoulders in slowly diminishing dollops of cold.
The lake's vast shallows had succumbed to the arctic intruder as well, leaving flocks of bewildered gulls huddled on its surprisingly solid surface, and every little pond was sealed tight by a perfectly fitted frozen lid.
During an ordinary Carolina cold snap, this icy covering could have presented a problem for our friend the heron, trying as it might to access the tasty minnows suspended in the frigid shallows.
This, however, was no ordinary Carolina cold snap.
No, this bitter, bone-chilling blast had frozen the great blue hunter itself!
Head alertly cocked, eyes wide open, leg raised mid-stride, toes curled against the chill, even its magnificent mantle of feathers was rendered rigid and motionless in a state of perfectly suspended animation.
Hoot Owl Karma has brought us many astonishing and wonderful encounters with nature over the years, but this ranks right up there with the most bizarre. We've heard tales of amphibians possessed of a natural antifreeze which allows their bodies' tissues to freeze during the winter, only to revive unharmed with the spring thaw;
perhaps some similar mystery of nature is at work in this instance...
We wander on, wondering as always at the power and mystery of mighty nature;
oblivious in our parting to the almost imperceptible alteration in the attitude of the stalker,
unfrozen for an instant,
now frozen again,
but having advanced one stealthy stride closer to the tiny fish-shaped shadows drifting under the thinnest frozen film at the margin of the ice-covered pool.
Credit to Jay Randolph for the super slow motion images of the great blue heron...