www.hoosieruplands.com, copyright 2004 Clark A. Morrison
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Frosty Morn

Sunrise at Monroe Dam

It's been raining for days, four days of gray cloud and rain. Every type of rain. Sprinke. Shower. Downpour.

It always seems to happen this way - just as the fall foliage is really starting to come into its own, rain and wind drive the leaves from the trees to spoil the view.

But now, Sunday morning dawns clear and cold, and a few miles south of Bloomington, Indiana, the sun rises over Lake Monroe.

The storms of the preceding week have done little to diminish the beauty of the fall colors, and the bright orange ball of the rising sun illuminates the landscape with its rays.

Indiana's largest body of water, Lake Monroe is also one of the busiest. But not this frosty morning in October. A solitary fisherman stands chest-deep in the water, about 40 feet from the shore, at the base of Monroe Dam. He is very still, almost motionless.

The morning mist rises slowly off the surface of the lake. The lone angler patiently waits, deep in the element of the lake as its dewy breath ascends to the sky.

A quarter mile east of where the fisherman works his line, the Lake Monroe spillway opens a hundred-yard notch in the ridgeline south of the lake. Like a huge roadcut without the road, it is designed to be a " safety valve" in the event of rising lake levels. Long before the lake rises high enough to cause damage to the dam, it will spill over the spillway into Salt Creek, just downstream of the dam.

In the early morning light, a row of white-barked sycamores rise up from the base of the eastern side of the rock cut.

The rain and wind have reduced the remaining leaves on the sycamores to nearly none. Like many native tree species, platanus occidentalis sheds it's leaves early, not trusting to the vagaries of Indiana's indian summer.

Though the broad leaves of the sycamore change quickly from green to dull brown, the coming of winter exposes an interesting white-and-brown patterned bark. In southern Indiana, sycamores are sometimes planted deliberately as a landscape tree, for the interesting color and texture of the winter-season bark.

The morning is calm by the shore of the lake, and there is no sound of waves upon the shore, for the lake is still. The air, almost silent.

A few leaves slowly fall, lining the shore with glowing embers of color.

Across the width of the spillway, an eighteen-inch wide strip of concrete defines the lip of the overflow, measured precisely at 556 feet above sea level, eighteen feet higher than the normal pool of the lake.

South of the spillway, the morning frost lingers on the short meadow grass. The rays of the morning sun slowly creep across the valley, and a light breath rises from the ground as the frost gives way to the warmth of the day.


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