Ice Armor

January 10, 2013

Frost-rimed grasses in the garden

Frost-rimed grasses in the garden

“Every leaf and twig was this morning covered with a sparkling ice armor; even the grasses in exposed fields were hung with innumerable diamond pendants, which jingled merrily when brushed by the foot of the traveller.  It was literally the wreck of jewels and the crash of gems.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Journals, January 21, 1838

I remember ice storms from my childhood in Minnesota — every tree, branch and twig was coated in a clear shield of ice.  Too bright for unprotected eyes.  Precarious footing.  And yes, merry tinkling when the shards of ice fell down.

These frosty January mornings in Seattle are a less piercing pleasure — no crashing crystals, just a silent icy edging.  Here are some photos of this magical world:

These grasses looked like ribbon with their white edging giving a pleasant contrast

These grasses looked like ribbon with their white edging giving a pleasant contrast

Petal pattern, with frost

Petal pattern, with frost

Edged ferns

Edged ferns

Christmas colors!  Red and green.

Christmas colors! Red and green.

In the winter garden

In the winter garden

Layered maple leaves

Layered maple leaves

Nature's calligraphy

Nature’s calligraphy

The frost gives a new meaning to the idea of a white garden.

The frost gives a new meaning to the idea of a white garden.









“O March that blusters and March that blows,
What color under your footsteps glows
Beauty you summon from winter snows
And you are the pathway that leads to the rose.”
— Celia Thaxter, “March”

Thin ice in the meadow

March weather is fickle.  But the iron hold of winter is softening.  The melting proceeds unevenly and wonderful abstract shapes form around grasses and leaves.

Thin ice in the meadow

Abstract shapes form around the meadow grasses

The snow melts first around the a dark leaf

Interesting how the snow melts in craters around each individual stem of grass



Last season's leaves hanging like wet socks on a clothesline

“American beech leaves hang like socks on a clothesline, and they remain there, becoming almost translucent, until early spring.”
— Nancy Ross Hugo, Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

Sometimes words are written so vividly that you can immediately hold an image of the subject in your mind’s eye.  That’s what happened when I read the passage above for the first time.  I liked the descriptive simile so much that I copied the words in my commonplace book.

Our Minnesota woods does not have American beech trees that I know of, but I did find other leaves hanging like wet socks on a clothesline.  They, too, were almost translucent in this late-winter season.

Leaves pegged to a woody clothesline

Lone leaf like an unmatched sock

Icy leaves before the thaw

Aged to translucence

Minnesota woods after the winter storm, before the thaw

“March. I am beginning
to anticipate a thaw. Early mornings
the earth, old unbeliever, is still crusted with frost
where the moles have nosed up their
cold castings, and the ground cover
in shadow under the cedars hasn’t softened
for months, fogs layering their slow, complicated ice
around foliage and stem
night by night . . . ”
— Luci Shaw, from “Revival,” posted on The Writer’s Almanac

The morning after Minnesota’s snowstorm gave me my only taste of the icy and snowy winters of my childhood.  I went out into the woods, while it was still cold, to see the frosty wonderland before it thawed.

Following the groomed trail through our woods

A light touch of frosty ice on the distant trees

Ice-coated branches

An icy wonderland

Young tree against the trunk of an old one

Red oak leaves encrusted in ice

The ice added a bit of sparkle to an otherwise gray and brown woods.

Heavy with ice

The trail through the back woods

A bit of red

Sloppy footprints through the slushy snow



Neighbor, lost in a cloud of exhaust, scrapes his car windows.

This is a winter morning in Seattle.  Many of us who live in the city do not have garages, so we park our vehicles outside overnight.  We have to remember to allow a bit of extra time to scrape the ice from our windshields on these frosty mornings.  I hate to have my car idle and emit exhaust for too long, but the car needs to be on while the windshield defroster does its work.  Here, one of my neighbors is almost lost in a cloud of exhaust as he clears the ice from his vehicle.  It rather reminds me of those old steam engines you see in movies gathering enough pressure to take off down the railroad tracks.


Frosty Mornings

December 11, 2009

The frost on my car window looked like falling stars.

Morning reflections in a neighbor's outdoor ornament

The last maple tree with leaves -- like a dying flame

Slippery footing on this icy log

We’ve been having a string of days with temperatures below freezing.  Here are a few photographs from my frosty morning at Green Lake taken shortly after sunrise at 7:47 a.m.