Relearning Winter

February 11, 2013

“Other seasons come abruptly but ask so little when they do.  Winter is the only one that has to be relearned.”
— Verlyn Klinkenborg, The Rural Life

Green moss on a roof

Green moss on a roof



One thing I am relearning about winter is how long it lasts.  This is what winter asks of me, to slow down to its glacial pace.  To take each day as it is instead of wishing it were already spring.

As I walk my neighborhood streets, my eye craves the excitement of color to lift me above the muted grays.  And most often the reward comes in the brilliant green of our mosses, which thrive in winter’s dampness.  This will have to do for now.  Spring’s explosion of other colors will come at its own sweet pace.

TSNW group on the Cold Creek trail

Yesterday was the Team Survivor NW (TSNW) annual snowshoe event at Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountains, about 1-1/2 hours from Seattle.  It was so much fun to play in the snow, which was deep this year.  The beautifully groomed trail passed through snow-laden trees.  The snow kept falling in clumps as the day warmed up.  Here are some photos from the day:

Outfitted in my snowshoes; ready to roll.

The trail started at Hyak Ski area, a popular spot for downhill skiers.

Cross country skiers shared the Cold Creek trail with those of us on snowshoes.

Moss hung on the trees like green icicles.

The TSNW group looked like a human caterpillar following our guide, Sharon, in single file along the trail.

It was an overcast day, but occasionally a patch of sunlight illuminated the surrounding mountains.


Buds holding the promise of spring.

Heading into the home stretch

Just as we were ready to depart, the skies showed a few patches of blue.

Pine Tree Infestations

October 6, 2010

Patterns of dried pine needles on the trees near Lake Roosevelt

We’ve been seeing many pine trees with partially browned needles.  We didn’t think that pine trees changed colors for fall, and they drying didn’t appear to be due to drought.  Later, a park ranger at Glacier National Park told us that the trees were suffering from pine moth infestation.  It’s disheartening to see vast amounts of damage to our forests from pine moths and spruce beetles.  We so often take our trees for granted.

Pine trees with partially browned needles


Pine tree trunks at Lake Roosevelt


Deadly larvae, which fell out of the wood for burning at the Logan's Pass fireplace!


September 24, 2010

Fallen pinecones

Spiraling pinecone

Pinecones on the sidewalk

“Pick up a pinecone and count the spiral rows of scales. You may find eight spirals winding up to the left and 13 spirals winding up to the right, or 13 left and 21 right spirals, or other pairs of numbers. The striking fact is that these pairs of numbers are adjacent numbers in the famous Fibonacci series: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21… Here, each term is the sum of the previous two terms. The phenomenon is well known and called phyllotaxis. Many are the efforts of biologists to understand why pinecones, sunflowers, and many other plants exhibit this remarkable pattern. Organisms do the strangest things, but all these odd things need not reflect selection or historical accident. Some of the best efforts to understand phyllotaxis appeal to a form of self-organization. Paul Green, at Stanford, has argued persuasively that the Fibonacci series is just what one would expect as the simplest self-repeating pattern that can be generated by the particular growth processes in the growing tips of the tissues that form sunflowers, pinecones, and so forth. Like a snowflake and its sixfold symmetry, the pinecone and its phyllotaxis may be part of order for free.”
     — Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe:  The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity

The Japanese Garden in Seattle

I saw signs of autumn this week at the Japanese Garden in Seattle.  The edges of some maple leaves had already turned orange.  And the spiders were busy building webs.  I plan to return in October when the fall foliage should be at its peak.

The Japanese Garden is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.  It’s a lovely oasis in the city and well worth a visit.

Bridge over the ponds in the Japanese Garden

The leaves were starting to turn in the garden.

I love the pattern of leaves with their shadows.

Lily pads

Reflections in the ponds at the Japanese Garden

Feeding frenzy: koi vs. thieving duck

Colorful koi at the Japanese Garden

Ginkgo leaves

Green pine cone, Japanese Garden

I love how the spider web reflects the colors of the leaves.

One of several Japanese lanterns on the grounds of the Japanese Garden