It’s mid December and I’m contemplating taking a walk. The weather, as I look out my dining room window, appears to be quite warm. The sun is shining brightly but I know it’s a trick of nature trying to make me believe that the temperature outside is pleasant. It’s really cold out there, very cold. And even though the snowfall from earlier in the week has melted, everyone knows that it’s not a day to dally outside wearing anything less than a heavy winter coat. Another reason why I know it’s cold outside is because we’re a week away from Christmas

I like to walk in Van Cortlandt Park no matter the time of year. I was there the other day, just before the snowstorm. A few trees along the edge of the lake were still decked out in fall foliage. But it’s only a matter of time before those trees too will be as stark and lifeless looking as the other timber in the area.

No matter how cold the weather gets, until the lake freezes over, you can always see someone fishing. There are at least five locations where I’ve seen fishermen cast lines out into the murky, algae laden water. One well used fishing hole is on an old train trestle that crosses over a narrow strip of the lake. On my last visit to the park I saw an old-timer wrapped in woolen coat. He sat on an up-turned plastic bucket, his pole dangling over the lake, a red and white bobber sitting on top of the water several yards from the shore. The lazy flowing lake certainly could not have taken the bobber much farther from where the old man had cast it out into the water. A gentle breeze jostled the bobber from side to side, the reflection of the foliage along the lake was distorted by the rippling water. Hundreds of wild geese on the other side of the lake squabbled and honked while the old man sat patiently watching his bobber.

A scraggly, leafless tree sitting on a rocky ledge of the lake’s bank caught my eye. The poor thing, even this early in the cold season had an exhausted dead-of-winter look as it leaned precariously over the water with branches stretching out beseechingly as if the tree was trying to catch its balance. It looked as though the slightest breeze would cause the tree to topple over into the lake. And in its spindly outstretched branches nearly a dozen red and white bobbers, along with yards and yards of fishing line, had become entangle. The bobbers swayed and jiggled in the gentle breeze. I slipped my point and shoot camera from a coat pocket and took a photo of the scene as the old man reeled in his fishing line. His red bobber slowly approached the shore and then with a quick snap of the wrist the old man flung his line back out into the water again, just missing the outstretched branches of the weary looking tree. Plop, the bobber hit the water. Several ducks floating nearby looked expectantly at the bobber, thinking that something good had been tossed in the water for them to nibble on. I watched the fisherman and wondered how many of the entangled bobbers in the tree belonged to this old guy.

“Looks like a Christmas tree,” I said.

“Ho, ho, ho,” the old man replied and then smiling broadly he turned away and began to fiddle with his fishing pole.

I continued walking up the trail. Squirrels scampered up the trees, mouths stuffed with debris, dry leaves and twigs, building material for their winter accommodations. They know that it’s just a matter of time before the real cold weather sets in. A speckled hawk flew overhead, circling, searching. The incessant honking of the migrating Canadian geese was everywhere as they took off in flight heading for their winter quarters. I made my usual rounds, visiting the area where a pair of swans hangout, dipping their heads under the murky water eating the vegetation until their necks are so green their necks resemble vines attached to their soft white bodies.

Heading back home I once again walk across the train trestle. The old fisherman, still sitting on his upturned bucket munched on a handful of potato chips. A few ducks glided close to the fisherman’s bobber and he tossed a few chips in their direction. The birds scrambled closer to shore and gobbled up the tidbits. It didn’t look as though the old man had tangled any more bobbers in the ragged tree. The wind had picked up. A bank of leaves were caught in a wind-devil and traveled across my path. The old man flipped up his collar and seemed to hunker down closer to the ground as he once again reels in his fishing line.

“Well, have a nice Holiday,” I said.

“The same to you,” he responded and flicked his bobber back out into the water.


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