Slightly chilled and moist air fills my lungs in a thoroughly refreshing way as the fog crawls across the lake's glassy surface. My paddle breaking the water accompanied by the distant calls of a few Canada geese are the only sounds that reach my ears as my kayak silently glides along. The stillness of this morning is overpowering.
The place is Stockage Lake, one of the region's most photogenic bodies of water - and today the lake is fulfilling its reputation. Through the tops of distant pines the sun breaches the fog, casting shadows and reflections into the water's undisturbed face as its illumination colors the scene.
Known as fog shadows, this phenomenon occurs when fog is dense enough to be illuminated by light passing through gaps in a structure or tree and yet thin enough to allow a large quantity of light to illuminate points beyond, thus giving a three-dimensional effect to the shadows (the lead picture for this article is an excellent example).
The Mists of May have arrived.
May is a special time in the Black Hills high country as winter finally relinquishes its long grip on the land, bringing an awakening to all. The lakes along with valleys and ravines are encased and defined by mists and banks of fog whose beauty not only treats the eye, but also invigorates the soul with its mystery, its color and its absence of light. The time is one of revival.
Somewhat less romantically, the encyclopedia tells us that fog is the result of water vapor condensing into tiny liquid water droplets in the air when a cool & stable air mass is trapped underneath a warm air mass - such as what is happening before me this morning with the sun heating the air over the chilly lake waters. True and good to know, but scientific definitions like this one seldom speak the spiritual effects of a particular natural phenomenon, how it touches and feeds something from within us.
Even more important, I believe, are the effects of this marvel or any marvel of Nature on our imagination - how we perceive the landscape and ourselves within it. We are, after all, the only species on our planet capable of appreciating the artistry of Nature in this way.
And so on I go, gliding my small craft over the smooth & mirrored lake waters as I collect images of the events that stretch out before me, ever mindful of their effects. For I do wish to experience the landscape, not just observe it. That's what the Mists of May are about.
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(above) Forested islets and ridges are reflected in the waters of Deerfield Lake as the sky begins to open.
(above) The light of a full moon sets into the foggy mists of the central Black Hills' Sheridan Lake.
(left) A small peninsula on Stockade Lake is enshrouded by a growing fog bank in the dawn light.
(above) Dead pine trees in a former burn area are eerily lit and silhouetted in dense rain fog.
(left) Shore reeds begin to catch the morning light as the fog moves over a distant ridge on Deerfield Lake.
(above) A beaver quietly swims through the waters of Stockade Lake as fog shadows light the water behind him.
(left) A small group of whitetail deer feed in the growing light and fog of the limestone country just west of Custer.
(right) Cattails and reeds decorate this shoreline on Sheridan Lake.
(left) A slight breeze ripples the waters of Deerfield Lake as the sun begins to emerge.
(above) Fog begins to lift as sunlight moves across a small inlet on Stockade Lake.