Our Northern winter keeps coming with record amounts of snowfall and colder days than usual. This year we decided to escape the cold and head south. The morning we left the temperature hovered in the teens with bright sunshine glistening off the frozen ice on the trees. Crossing from Minnesota into Iowa brought us less snow. By southern Missouri we found blooming daffodils, and by northeastern Texas we saw redbud trees in bloom. With each passing state the temperatures were warmer and our smiles were bigger.
We experienced spring thunderstorms with heavy rain, and even a tornado warning. We rode our bikes in warm sunshine and in blustery winds. We sat outside without heavy coats, hats and gloves. We watched the sun set over open water. We reveled in green grass and the flowers and trees. It was a welcome assault to our senses to be surrounded by the colors of spring and the sounds of birds.
Dogwood trees were in full bloom, their blossoms so delicate and bright. We were talking to another cyclist (also from the North) who couldn’t contain her excitement over seeing tulips in bloom. That sent us on a driving trip to Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We spent two hours soaking up the colors of tulip blooms – every color imaginable! We would pinch ourselves and then look at the weather app showing the temps back north in the 20’s and yet another snowfall.
After three weeks we began our journey back home. A cold front had dropped way south out of Canada and we had temperatures below freezing for the journey north. Our winter clothes and coats came back out of the closet and as we drove the season reversed back into late winter. We arrived home with more snow on the ground than when we left, but our minds were filled with the beauty of spring and the knowledge that eventually the warmth will return here too, bringing the colors and sights that we had absorbed on our trip.
The big snow storm is moving out of Minnesota. Yes, we had snow and wind and white-out conditions, and now we are left with the task of shoveling. Our world has been very white the past few days as the snow blew horizontally with the gusting northeast winds. The fluffy lightweight snow was easy prey as it was picked up and carried by the wind. It collected along buildings, fences, and previous piles of snow. Our usual demarcations of walkways and sidewalks are now obliterated by the drifts. And yet the white curves are now a lovely contrast to those sharp edges that our eyes are used to seeing. It’s as if the whole world has been softened just a bit.
It’s taken awhile for the lake ice to be “good.” Between freezing, thawing, large snowfalls, and more thawing it has been sloppy, to say the least, on top of the lake. But recently we’ve had some of the best conditions, and the lovers of winter sports have been outside – skiers, sledders, snowshoers, snowmobile riders, and anglers.
The fish house had been set up earlier in the day to capture some of the sun’s warmth and to protect us from the winds. It was cozy inside and even the fish were cooperating too – sunfish, crappies, bass and Northern pike. Slowly the sun dipped further into the western horizon, with a cloud bank on it’s southern flank and a lovely halo to the north where the light refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. It was a beautiful ending to a winter’s day.
I’ve just come inside from shoveling the two inches of light and fluffy snow that fell overnight. This was an “easy” shovel – I could have almost used a broom to sweep the snow aside. While doing this, I was thinking about all the variances that occur during our winter season. Snow can also be wet and heavy, collecting on the ground like cement and requiring a good back and strong arm muscles to shovel and heave it into a pile. This winter we’ve also had rain – it fell on top of the snow that had already accumulated. Then the temperatures plummeted and the rain turned to ice. The alleys now have ruts in them from the car tracks that melted and then refroze. This last “clipper” of dry fluffy snow has moved through the area and is now allowing the colder Arctic air to flow in; our temperatures have started their descent and will continue into the sub-zeros tonight. Winter – it comes in so many ways.
But last Saturday morning the landscape came to life in another way. The gray day dawned with the color white everywhere, placed on shapes and forms. The cold morning with the moisture in the air caused the fog to freeze, coating the trees and fence wires. In a drab landscape there was an amazing brightness. The lack of a blue and sparkling sky allowed the snow to reflect the gray above, muting the contrast between the black tree trunks and the frozen frosting. Jack Frost had conspired with Mother Nature to give us a beautiful landscape
The new year of 2023 has followed in the footsteps of 2022 with more snow. Yes, it’s winter. Yes, it’s the north. And yes, it’s expected. But it’s been unusual for us to have a parade of snow storms dumping feet of snow, and beautiful snow at that. In some areas the trees have suffered. Young pines have bent over with the weight of heavy snow on their branches. The tops of the oak trees, with their brown leaves still clinging to the branches, have collected the snow. They too have arced downward to the ground. In the suburban areas we are running out of places to put the snow. So instead it just gets added to the already large piles, growing taller and taller with each snowfall.
But in a nearby red pine forest the trees have stood tall, covered on one side with a stripe of snow. They stand at attention to the winds that blow, and their tall trunks cast long shadows over the white snow on the ground. I see it as a testament to their longevity and their sturdiness. And their example of surviving a continuing winter.