Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Icy ledges

            The part of coastal Maine where Riverdragon Ceramics is located is a place where the bones of the earth stick out. Gardening here is an adventure, in large part because if you want to dig a hole big enough for a small bush, there's a good chance you'll encounter rocks in all the places you thought you wanted that bush to go. Rock ledges push out of the ground just about everywhere - in fact, the barn here rests directly on a ledge. (This is why the barn is, and likely always will be, a summertime studio.)
            I love the ledges. It might seem like big rocks would be static and dead, but this isn't at all the case. All sorts of neat things grow on the ledges. Here trees live with their roots embedded directly in the rock.

            There are lichens, too. They are like sponges when it rains, fluffy and green, but crispy and seemingly dead when it is dry. There are different lichens - I don't know how many kinds - but there are two very noticeable ones here: mint green stringy lichen that grows on sunny ledges, and dark green floppy lichens that hang from shaded rocks like weird mushrooms. These floppy lichens catch the water that runs down the ledge from above, and in the winter this means they catch the icicles, too.

            The ledge looks very different in the winter, poking dark edges out of the bright white snow. The rocks here are grey, and I think in the summer I'd call them light grey. But when everything is snowy, they are the darkest thing around.
            Where in the summer there are little trickles of water, now there are little frozen waterfalls. In places the rocks seem to sparkle - like clay covered with glaze, the glossy ice catches the light and lends the rock beneath a different character.

            Then there are the icicles. I grew up in Virginia, where it's too warm to get racks of icicles like this most of the time. The college I attended is in Massachusetts, where I saw icicles taller than myself throughout the winter. This winter, we have periodically had days so warm that the icicles all melt away. So there aren't enormous sparkling columns that I became accustomed to during college, despite being another 500 miles or so northward. Nonetheless, these caught my eye as they spilled down the rock.

            Spring is a long way off. It will be another month before I start the tomato and cucumber seeds I'm planning to grow this year, because if I start them now they'll reach the limits of their pots before I can put them outside. For now, I'm enjoying the quiet and the changes in the landscape, and idly wondering what seeds to sow next to the ledge and below the windows when the ice recedes.

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