Strolling into the parking lot at the Carpenter Nature Center, I park my car over the snow. I put on my hat and grab my camera to take pictures as a slight breeze chills my ears. The tall pine trees sway back and forth with each gust of wind. The redolent of pine consumes the area. The clouds cover the sun, making it feel colder and grayer than a regular day. The snow on the trees creates a dense ambient sound causing my footsteps in the snow to be quieter with each step. As I walk towards the front building, a black bunny is displayed. The gaps between the bars on the enclosure are wide enough to let me caress and pet his fluffy fur as he rubs his head against my fingers.
The greeter at the building holds the front door for me to enter. I take my hat off and turn to my left side to sign into the daily registry. In the center of the room is a large map of the park indicating which paths lead to specific destinations. The walls are full of displays of live animals ranging from frogs and snakes to tarantulas and turtles inside their terrariums. The turtles have tanks with room to swim and rest on the rocks under hot lamps like a sauna to stay warm during winter. Looking up across the top of the walls is a continuous shelf showing taxidermist animals. A brown owl sitting on top of a squirrel is held with its sharp talons, implying the owl’s hunting skills as he collects his prey like a bear trap cinching deeper into his food’s flesh. Across on the other side of the room is an opossum displaying his teeth with a snarling grin. His eyes stare at me as I use my camera to capture his artificial smile.
I finish taking a few pictures of the rest of the animals and put my hat back on. I leave the building delighted after seeing the animals. I start walking off the trail, making a shortcut through the tall, heavy snow. The snow rises above my boots as some steps are more profound than others. My socks become wet as I go down toward the river, as another gust of wind chafes my neck.
The oak trees look beautiful, with the snow resting on the naked branches. I pull out my camera to capture its elegance. Each branch curls and waves like a lightning bolt shot upside-down. Its gesture looks like a hand reaching up from the ground with long fingers lengthening toward the sky, extending at the clouds. I can hear the wind rustle through the trees as the people from inside the building pass me on the path as they are cross-country skiing making fine track lines in the snow. The geometry of the creases left in the snow is a delicate shot with my camera.
An overlook of the Saint Croix River is at the path’s edge. I get close to the corner to see two telescopes pointing at the trees below. I look across the river and see a straight horizontal line of forest separating the sky and the ground. I set my camera down and see through the viewfinder where the telescope is pointing. A nest with the female eagle is sitting inside, keeping eggs warm for spring hatching. I look above the tree line and see a bald eagle fly overhead. With his wings spread wide and full, his chest pumped out, and his head held high, I stare in awe at the exquisiteness of this eagle. It circles the nest where he and his family live. Suddenly, he pulls his wings behind him, stretches his claws with large talons out in front, swoops down, catches a fish from the shallow river spot, and places it in the nest for his family to feast. Astonished by the speed, grace, and precision that this eagle demonstrated is a true gift to witness and behold. Watching from a distance as they devour the fish, I admire what this bird can do, showing me his power and beauty.