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



“But no weather interfered fatally with my walks, or rather my going abroad, for I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines . . . “
–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Pines with wavy boughs

“Instead of calling on some scholar, I paid many a visit to particular trees . . . Sometimes I rambled to pine groves, standing like temples, or like fleets at sea, full-rigged, with wavy boughs.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Thoreau was an early tree-watcher.  He called trees “the shrines I visited both summer and winter.”  Thoreau is a wonderful role model for a self-taught naturalist.  I admire his curiosity and powers of observation, and I read with delight the many passages in Walden devoted to descriptions of his natural surroundings — birds, trees, ponds, soil, etc.

As I observe my “adopted” trees this year, I will try to emulate Thoreau’s natural curiosity and fresh eyes.  If you haven’t already noticed, I have created a special “Tree-Watching Project” category for my tree posts — you can find it on the right-hand side of the page, beneath the monthly archives.