By Robert Klose
In all my years in Maine I have never experienced a winter like this. Where there should be snow, there is green grass. When I should be bundled to the hilt, I am outside in shirtsleeves. And where the river behind my house should be frozen from bank to bank, it runs freely.
I took what I thought was my last canoe ride in October, when the bordering woods were embroidered with reds and golds and the cool air still bore a hint of warmth when the breeze died down. Reaching over the gunwale, I dipped my hand into the water and one thought occurred to me: "swimmable." But I resisted temptation and, with November's advent, put the canoe up for the season.
As it turned out, I was premature. These early winter days have been nothing short of gracious, perhaps an attempt by nature to reset the balance by rewarding us for what we endured last winter, when snow fell upon snow until there was no place for the plows to put it.
And so, seizing the moment late last month, I untarped the canoe, grabbed my paddles and life jacket, slipped the old girl into the water, and set out.
Having paddled the Penobscot only during the warmer, more cooperative seasons, I was immediately struck by how different this winter world on the river was. In summer the trees are full of leaves and the banks thick with sedge, forming soft borders that give me a sense of embrace. Winter is different. The abrupt leaf-fall of autumn was like a curtain rising, exposing actors - trees - stripped to their bare bones, giving the woods a transparency that made me feel connected to a much wider world. How could I not think of Robert Frost's iconic poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," with my canoe the steed and I the observer? The woods are lovely, dark and deep...
I paddled on. My strokes were sure and smooth, but every so often, when I'd get mesmerized by the sheer silence and the gift of having the river all to myself, the paddle blade would slap the water and throw spray up onto my hand. I felt the chill from a river that, by all rights, should have been frozen solid by now. In fact, the cold told me that it was willing to freeze, if only the temperature would dip and give it a chance.
I paddled on, and two of my neighbors, a couple, strolled down to the riverbank. "Good for you!" the man called, waving, as if cheering a heroic deed. And farther down, an unanticipated moment - another canoeist, plying his languid way upriver. We drew close and grabbed hold of each other's gunwales, a fraternal clasp peculiar to canoeists.
"Isn't this something?" he remarked as we bobbed under a slate-gray sky. "We won't see many more opportunities like this," I replied.
It was idle banter, but heartfelt, and appropriate, for what more could be said? We let go and the river separated us again.
The rest of my ride was solitary. The river was moving so slowly that it was more like a lake on which I felt I could commit myself to a good, long stay. I checked the time and realized that I needed to meet a class at the university where I teach. But then again, if I didn't go, would my students protest? And, the next day, given the excuse that I didn't come to class because the day was so beautiful and I just had to be on the river, would they understand?
I reached over the side of the canoe, ran my hand through the water, and thought: The river's lovely, dark and deep, but I have a promise to keep....
And so I put in to shore, pulled the canoe onto the bank, and turned it over, its slick, wet belly shiny in the weak light of a winter day. I ran my hand over it, as if lulling it to sleep. This had surely been my last opportunity for a canoe ride until spring.
But then, again, who knows?
1. Penobscot: 佩诺布斯科特河，美国缅因州中部河流。
2. Maine: 缅因州，美国东北部新英格兰的一个州，北临加拿大魁北克省，东临加拿大新不伦瑞克省及大西洋。
3. bundle: 束，捆，这里指裹着厚厚的衣服；to the hilt: 完全地，彻底地；in shirtsleeves: 只穿衬衣（不穿外套）。
4. 我上一次泛舟是在十月，当时秋叶黄如金、红如火，星星般点缀着沿河的树林，微风吹过，空气中尚有一丝暖意。我以为那会是我今年最后一次泛舟了。embroider: （在……上）刺绣；bear: 吹动，传送。
5. gunwale: 舷缘，舷边。
6. premature: （做事）过早的，过快的。
7. 这段早冬日子简直是天赐的仁慈，这也许是大自然的一种补偿方式，为了平衡我们去年所经历的冷酷无情的严冬。那时漫天鹅毛大雪，下个不停，直至铲雪机也无处安置它们了。nothing short of: 毫不逊于……，简直就是……（用于强调）。
8. untarp: 揭开盖在……上的防水帆布；paddle: 短桨；the old girl: 此处指的是作者的划艇。
9. sedge: （生长于潮湿处的）苔草；embrace: 拥抱。
10. 出其不意的秋日落叶就像升起的帷幕，将演员——树木——光秃秃的骨架裸露在外，整片树林变得透明，使我恍惚接触到了一个更为广阔的世界。abrupt: 突然的，出其不意的；transparency: 透明，透明度。
11. Robert Frost: 罗伯特•弗罗斯特（1874-1963），美国诗人，善用传统诗歌形式和口语表达新内容和现代感情名字、作品主要描写新英格兰的风土人情，四度获得普利策奖。名作有《雪夜林边小驻》、《未选的路》和《白桦树》；steed: 马，坐骑。
12. stroke: （划船的）一次划水；mesmerize: 迷惑，迷住；paddle blade: 桨叶；slap: 啪啪地撞击，拍击；spray: 浪花，水花。
13. dip: 减少，降低。
14. unanticipated: 不曾预料到的；ply: 定期往返；languid: 懒洋洋的，没精打采的。
15. fraternal: 兄弟般的，亲如手足的；clasp: 紧抱，紧握；peculiar: （个人或团体）特有的看，独具的。
16. be something: 真了不起，真精彩；bob: （在水面上）上下移动，起伏；slate-gray: 石板灰，青灰色。
17. banter: （善意的）取笑，打趣。
18. 此处仿照《雪夜林边小驻》一诗，原文是：The woods are lovely, dark and deep, / But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep.
19. slick: 光滑的。
20. lull: 使入睡，使安静。
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