Morning at Mud Lake

By: Dave Jones, facilities manager on December 14th, 2022

It was 4:30 am and the full moon shone above the frozen lake. While taking our black lab, Bella, for her morning walk through the woods, it was calm, clear, and silent, save for the sounds of our steps crunching across the icy snow.


The lunar light pierced through treetops, stretching out across the glittering ground, creating bright abstract patches of negative space. Our peaceful circumnavigation of Mud Lake was soon punctuated by a distant “who cooks for you?”a barred owl crying out from the right, in the woods across the lake. Moments later and much closer, a second barred owl responded from the tree line at our left. The pair of silent-flying birds called back and forth, making their often elusive existence known to each other and to us.

Returning to the house, to make coffee and lunches, the eerie but thrilling interaction felt like a reward for walking, looking, and listening outdoors before dawn. I was reminded of my early-morning walk in the woods during a more recent walk through the Woodson Art Museum as I strolled through a new collection exhibition – Light’s Edge: The American Nocturne – an imposing and ethereal barred owl even greeted me near the door.

Tyler Vouros, Wilson, 2020, charcoal and water on Fabriano paper on canvas

The exhibition’s exploration of fleeting light or its absence is reminiscent of the ephemeral quality of chance encounters with wildlife in Wisconsin at the right place, time, and, in my case, accompanied by my walking friend.

Join the Museum’s curator of collections Amalia Wojciechowski for a gallery walk through Light’s Edge: The American Nocturne on Thursday, January 5, 5:30-6:30 pm, to enjoy scenes familiar and far off, just beyond the reach of moonlight.

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