The ground is frozen beneath my feet. The leaves are stuck to the ground, forming a slick, hard surface, occasionally pushed up into a misshapen pile from the hoar frost underfoot. The sky above is a brilliant blue, solstice sunlight streaming through the leafless trees. Patches of snow and frozen puddles left over from the last rainstorm are scattered across the forest floor.
The surface of the ice is a clear transparent black in some places, so clear one can see individual bubbles, leaves, and sticks captured inches underneath; an opaque white in other places, held together with two-inch long hexagonal crystals, diamonds, and stars, a magical mosaic. Deer and coyote prints are sunken in the snow patches, marking where someone else has traveled before me, but otherwise the woods are quiet.
When I reach the waterfall, the creek is jumping down the rock slide, bumping and sliding along each outcrop layer, and spraying up in the air as it encounters the many frozen knobs and pillars rising from the rock. Below the falls, the water slips on top of and underneath shelves of ice stretching out like a spider’s legs from the edge of the stream, where the water has slowed and the ice can form.
In the center, the water flows freely. It dances down and over the next five cascades, some only a foot or two high, others nearly six feet high, bouncing over, under, and off the ice that covers the eddies, the protruding rock, and the slippery falls themselves.
I am not the only one to stop and marvel; in the distance, I watch another person walk slowly along the creek, stop and stare, and ponder the unusual mix of ice, rock, and water. When we pass one another soon thereafter, he speaks so softly he almost whispers: “Merry Christmas!”