Frozen

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

Snow soldiers in a new year

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.

Winter’s morning light

Our landscape has become basic and minimal. Trees are now mere skeletons without their leaves, opening up the landscape to larger scenes – ones that take in the expanse of the sky. And now they also take in the expanse of the ice.

We’re transitioning into the depths of winter. It’s never a straight-line change to our coldest season but rather a roller coaster ride of temperatures. Snow, melt, snow and ice, a partial thaw, cracks in the ice, and eventually the temperatures remain below 32 degrees and the lake ice becomes thicker and covers the entire expanse.

My favorite time of day is morning with it’s promise of a new day. The air is crisp and oftentimes the sun and clouds cooperate together to present an amazing display of colors and light. It’s a time to be thankful for the day, no matter how cold it is, and to appreciate what my eyes and senses can absorb. And add a hot cup of coffee to keep me warm as we all settle into these short days of the year.

Change to winter in the landscape

We’ve just returned from a trip south to Missouri for a lovely family wedding. When we left our home in Minnesota the snow was flying and the plows were out clearing the roads. As we drove south the snow depth seemed to diminish with the miles and the sun would peek through the clouds as they were blown across the sky. A few miles later and we’d be surrounded again in a snow squall.

We crossed the border into Iowa and the scenario continued (actually, it continued the following day too!). I am always amazed to see the cleared fields outlined in snow. The geometry of the land becomes accentuated and so much more noticeable. In this instance, all those field lines are in a direct contrast to the roundness of the clouds. It’s a beautiful time to be out on the road and observe how the seasonal changes affect our view of the landscape.