Here in Minnesota and Wisconsin we are going through our shoulder time from fall to winter. It’s a time that varies from year to year and also varies in its length. We had snow and cold in mid-October and then an unusual warm stretch in early November, causing the lake ice to begin to freeze, then thaw, and now freeze again. It’s a lovely time to observe the transition with open water and lake ice all at the same time.
With a warm glow the late afternoon sun lit up the opposite shoreline and allowed the trees to be reflected in the open water. The ice had been pushed to the north end of the lake by the strong winds that had blown the previous day. But this for moment, stillness and light came together.
The cold has settled in and the lakes are freezing. Throughout the day I watched the clouds and the snow move in. The wind would pick up and blow the snow down the lake, forming whirlwinds of white skimming the ice. As quickly as the snow came in, then the sun would come out. The ice would creak and moan as the heat from the sun combatted the cold of the ice. There were sub-sonic groans that pierced the air. And then the cycle would repeat – snow then sun then snow. But before sunset the skies cleared and there was a beautiful and quiet full moonrise. It lifted over the opposite shore and trees and eventually directed its light on the snow-covered and ice-cracked lake, littered with leaves now encased in the ice.
It was a bitter cold day and evening but the sun had been shining and the blue sky had beckoned people outside. I was at Lake Como and there were walkers and runners following the path around the lake, there was one lone ice fisherman, and there were people who had laced up their skates and were gliding across the ice where the surface was smooth. It was a glorious time, and the sunset glowed in the ice surface and in the clouds above. For a few moments it was beautiful, and not quite as cold as we thought.
After a week or more with below freezing temperatures, we reveled in a day of 40 degrees and sunshine. I took advantage of our “heat wave” and went for a long walk that took me through Como Park. As I went past the lake it was wonderful to see the snow and ice patterns. The dark areas in the photograph are clear ice, interrupted by the white snow that had been blown across the lake. There were lots of big cracks going through the surface too. Once we get back to our cold temperatures, the ice will continue to form….all a part of winter in Minnesota.
We are seeing the start of our spring thaw. Warmer temps and bright sunshine have had a significant impact on our snow pack. Slowly we are seeing brown lawns reappear and some garden beds have small green shoots near the ground. The lakes have a much longer way to go before they are clear of ice. Gradually the ice near the shoreline goes out, but still the lake has a good 12 inches of ice. The snow on the surface has become mushy and uneven, and eventually will melt completely. The silence of winter is also giving way to the sounds of spring. When I walked out onto the lake I could actually hear the snow melting, and high overhead the Canada geese, the ducks, the swans, and the sandhill cranes were all calling and honking.