There’s no heat left in the sunshine by the time it reaches the bottom of Cattail. Every last joule has been poached by blue crystal skies and what finally descends is ice cube cold, diamond sharp. Light like daggers. If focused on tinder through a magnifying glass, it would freeze-dry and shatter rather than ignite.
The only warmth to be found leaks between interleaved wool and fleece, seeps through Gore-Tex and polypro, or vents through chapped lips in short jets of steam as we climb the icy stairways of water. How can one be so hot and so cold at the same time? Each extreme, heat and chill, feeds the other in the thermal yin and yang of insulating layers.
From an inner breast pocket, my old-man specs immerge, coated with a warm sheen of sweat that frosts almost audibly as glacial rays bend through the glass; lenses become lozenges more fitting in a tumbler of scotch than on the bridge of my nose. But the copper john needs to get deeper so I squint through the translucence and clumsily add another shot.
Rays drip like icicles, sparks shower from tumbling runs, and laser beam reflections pierce polarized lenses. Camera sensors lose their minds in the onslaught of brilliance and primary colors disappear to be replaced by the binary tones of black and bright. Stone cold glitter fills the ravine like a Tiffany’s window display.
And while the warm golden glow of the flaming hearth calls, the comfort of cabin and three fingers of single malt wait, I linger on, shivering, but enchanted by the steel blue glint of snake guides, the shining arc of airborne silk, and the flash of side and tail in deep quicksilver pools. I stand frozen in place, blinded by the new winter’s light.