On Christmas Day my Campbell River sparkles.
It starts with coffee or tea, some toast, perhaps. Some cheese, yes. Bacon, yes. But not much.
Just enough to get me out and in there. If it has snowed, then all the better. But a snowless Christmas doesn’t diminish the sparkle.
It used to be that Christmas Day would mean bumping into outdoorspeople and anglers from all walks of life.
The new lines of outdoor clothing and apparatuses that Santa had brought would be worn and wielded for the first time. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters – all out and about.
That seems to have diminished. Perhaps Santa has shopped more at device stores and less at outdoors stores in the last few years. Perhaps the ideal gift keeps the child on the couch instead of on the banks of a river or creek or on the area’s many trails.
Perhaps the treks through virtual forests are more intriguing than a natural forest. The virtual forest after all shows the creatures in explicit detail. The natural forest shows a partial hoof or paw print, a broken branch leading to a trail to the river not made by but used by a human.
There is no pressing of a button. What is it? You watch, you follow, you try to understand. A deer has approached its usual place to drink, but it turns off. The prints are farther apart as it turns away from the water and dig deep as it re-enters the bush from which it wisped. Somewhere out there, something was watching and waiting and was disappointed.
The ravens and crows are cawing back and forth. They are usually only together for one thing. A turkey vulture flaps sluggishly into the trees, startling you until you almost want to bushwack further and see what it’s feeding on. But you return to the river’s path, not wanting to spoil your day with too much reality.
You stop and watch as the December river roils and thrashes where only days ago it limped along, mild and dark green.
The winter wrens are about and hang in the bushes just long enough to twitter Merry Christmas and then they are gone.
Kinglets or bushtits, both small birds with wonderful voices, call from the high branches but make quick forays to the forest floor. You see and here them flirt in the bushes, but they rarely stay long enough for a good look.
And then it is time. The sky darkens and the sky looms coldly in December. The walk back will take you into the solstice-induced gloom of the river.
It is time to go home, ironically, from your home. Time to leave the sanctity of all that is large and small, significant and not insignificant. You head back reluctantly and pause when you hear the chirp and see the flutter of the brown-black Dipper.
The water ouzel perches on rocks before diving beneath the surface to find its food.
As the day’s light bleeds away, it will try for one more morsel before popping up a yard downstream and fluttering to its Christmas Eve home in an undercut bank of the river. There it flutters it wings, wicking off the river’s droplets. Back in place, the feathers provide a quilt of warmth.
The dipper’s eyes close dreamily, its body turns those last morsels from the river bottom into a fireplace that warms its hearth. And Christmas comes.
The Dipper has “nictitating membranes” on its eyes that allow it to see above and under the water.
It goes from one reality to another; it has multiple visions of the dynamics of life.
It marks Christmas on its own terms.
What a remarkable little bird.