Nothing stops time from ticking relentlessly by, and the winter has finally given way to spring. At Nahant Marsh, it was a long, hard, cold one this time around. The bitterest cold did not arrive early on in the season, indeed, it appeared that a relatively warm winter might be in store. But by mid-January, temperatures had plunged and snow had piled up, and it became a winter to remember.
The subzero cold, once here, stayed day after day, week upon week. Snowstorms blew through every few days, adding more snow to the thick layer that blanketed the area. Windchill warnings were issued, records were set, and people bundled up—or did not go out at all if they could avoid it. The wild things, however, went about their business as best they could. Only the humans did not leave barefoot prints in the snow.
And wild things there were, too. As in winters past, birds could be frequently seen around the deep frozen marsh. There were, as ever, bald eagles wintering in the area. Many common goldeneyes and mergansers dived for food on the dwindling open-water areas of the river, and rested on the ice expanding on its surface. To my delight, I spotted trumpeter swans more often than I ever have any winter season before.
Winter seems to be the season that I see swans if I am lucky enough to see them at all. Is it the harshness of the winter that nudges them to a location that I might have a chance to see them? I can’t really be sure, but there are not many trumpeter swans, and it is a treat to spot them. Perhaps, like the bald eagles, trumpeter swans will make a resilient comeback after having once been extirpated from this area.
This memorable winter was full of surprising beauty, too. Sundogs appeared frequently. Big, brilliant arcs of light requiring bitter cold air aloft to appear at all. The patches of open water on the river smoked in the super-cold and coated nearby surfaces in thick frost. Diamond dust glittered weightless in the air—only present because it was so profoundly cold. It was worth bundling up and venturing out.
People said the winter seemed never-ending. Perhaps it did seem so at the time. But, that of course was not the case. The flood waters of springtime began to rise even before the winter moved on, and continued to rise as rains came to melt the snow and ice. The water remains high even now. Spring snowstorms came, and the snowpack upriver continues to melt and feed the flood. The flood will eventually pass, as nothing ever stays the same. Some times though, like this winter to remember, do linger in the mind long after they are gone.