Thick Was the Snow

February 7, 2017

Snow-frosted branches

Snow-frosted branches

“Thick was the snow on field and hedge
And vanished was the river-sedge,
Where winter skilfully had wound
A shining scarf without a sound.”
— Charles Causley, “At Nine of the Night I Opened My Door”

“Snow
falls on snow —
silence.
— Santaka

The snow was beautiful while it lasted.  A brief taste of “real” winter here in the rainy Pacific Northwest.

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Snow Day! A Gift of Time

February 6, 2017

“I love that snow is mineral, falling as billions of temporary stars.”
— Diane Ackerman, Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day

Weeping poplar, snowy landscape

Weeping poplar, snowy landscape

“”They seem tentative and awkward at first, then in a hastening host a whole brief army falls, white militia paratrooping out of the close sky over various textures, making them one.”
— Donald Hall, Seasons at Eagle Pond

My neighborhood this morning

My neighborhood this morning

Today I woke to a snow-covered world, and when I checked the inclement weather hotline I heard that the city’s branch libraries were closed today and I didn’t have to go to work. Yippee!  A snow day!  A whole day of unscheduled time.  What a gift!

I donned boots and took a morning walk around Green Lake.  So pretty.

Path at Green Lake

Path at Green Lake

Dawn Redwood at lake's edge

Dawn Redwood at lake’s edge

I loved the pattern of the black branches laden with white frosting

I loved the pattern of the black branches laden with white frosting

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Witch hazel

Witch hazel

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Cedars

Cedars

In Praise of Shadows

April 11, 2014

“Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.”
— Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, from In Praise of Shadows, translated by Thomas J. Harper and Edward G. Seidensticker

Shadows on snow, the road to Rachel Lake, Minnesota

Shadows on snow, the road to Rachel Lake, Minnesota

” . . . we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.”
— Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, from In Praise of Shadows, translated by Thomas J. Harper and Edward G. Seidensticker

The stark bare trees in the Minnesota landscape were strikingly beautiful.  They cast dark shadows on the snow.  At times the shadows looked like the tree roots made visible.

Tree shadows

Tree shadows on snow

Sun through bare trees, my Dad's woods

Sun through bare trees, my Dad’s woods

 

 

Branches Big with Snow

February 10, 2014

Snow-coated branches, Green Lake park, Seattle

Snow-coated branches, Green Lake park, Seattle

“Every branch big with it,
Bent every twig with it;
Every fork like a white web-foot;
Every street and pavement mute:
Some flakes have lost their way, and grope back upward when
Meeting those meandering down they turn and descend again.”
—  Thomas Hardy, from “Snow in the Suburbs”

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Snowshoers on the trail

Snowshoers on the trail

This weekend was the annual Team Survivor Northwest Snowshoe Event at Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascades, and it was my one day to play in the snow this winter.  (Although winter is not yet over, and March can hold some surprises.  My mother always used to say of March, “In like a lamb, out like a lion.”  And this year in Seattle, March 1st was a mild day.  So it is always possible that we might get a snow storm yet this month!)

I, of course, wanted it to be actually snowing, but the temperature was too high.  We were fortunate that the rain held off while we were in the mountains.  (Back in Seattle, it was a very rainy day.)  The light was flat and gray, and the magnificent tall trees along the trail were cloaked in darkness.  The colorful jackets of the cross-country skiers and showshoers along the trail contrasted sharply with the dim, cloudy surroundings.  It was still and quiet though at times we could hear the hum of the distant freeway traffic.

There was something almost gloomy about the still forest in the muted light.  Along parts of the trail, trees were moss-laden or furred with lichen.  I came to play, but this wasn’t a playful landscape on this day.

“Many trees are soulful.  These are trees that are old enough and large enough to shelter us.  These are the ones that draw a stillness in us.”
— Jean Shinoda Bolen, Like a Tree:  How Trees, Women, and Tree People Can Save the Planet

“And there never yet has been a nature writer who, confronted with primitive forest, has not resorted to the vocabulary of architecture.  Indeed, since it has been impossible to visualize or verbalize nature in terms free of cultural association, the woodland interior has been habitually conceived of as a living space, a vaulted chamber . . . curved and bent boughs and branches suggesting arched portals to some grandiose vaulted hall.”
— Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory

Lichen-covered trunks of tall trees along the Cold Creek Trail

Lichen-covered trunks of tall trees along the Cold Creek Trail

Moss-laden trees along the trail

Moss-laden trees along the trail

Piece of fallen moss on snow

Piece of fallen moss on snow

Lichen-covered branches

Lichen-covered branches

Fallen lichen on snow

Fallen lichen on snow

Lichen on a cracked boulder

Lichen on a cracked boulder

My eyes were drawn to the branching patterns on the tall evergreen trees.  They seemed quite fern-like.

Layers of branches in a cascade down the trunk of s tree

Layers of branches in a cascade down the trunk of s tree

Branching patterns

Branching patterns

Branches like ferns

Branches like ferns

Fern revealed under melting snowbank

Fern revealed under melting snowbank

I was startled to see blue — almost a tropical blue — in the shadows of the snow along the trail.  Where did this blue come from?  There was no sunshine to reflect and refract the light on snow.  It was as if the snow held its own glowing lantern.  Miraculous!

Glow of blue shadows on snow

Glow of blue shadows on snow

Pleated snowbank

Pleated snowbank

Something restful about the soft curves of these snowbanks

Something restful about the soft curves of these snowbanks

Slush in a creek

Slush in a creek

Cold Creek Trail at Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountains

Cold Creek Trail at Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountains

“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

 

 

Gone Into the Fields

March 6, 2012

“Away, away, from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs-
To the silent wilderness
Where the soul need not repress
Its music lest it should not find
An echo in another’s mind,
While the touch of Nature’s art
Harmonizes heart to heart.
I leave this notice on my door
For each accustom’d visitor:-
‘I am gone into the fields
To take what this sweet hour yields.'”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, from “The Invitation”

Plowed fields under a dusting of snow

I’ve just returned from a week’s trip to Minnesota to stay with my 93-year-old Dad on the family farm.  It’s been an unseasonally dry and almost snow-less winter in Minnesota, but a storm passed through during my stay.  The farm was on the south fringes of the storm front, and we got just a small amount of snow, some rain, and sleet.  My sister, who lives in northern Minnesota, got 10-inches of snowfall in one day!

The farm is quiet in winter.  I enjoyed my solitary walks through the woods and fields.  Like Shelley, I kept my eyes open to what the Minnesota winter yielded.

Water after it has passed through the culverts under our driveway

Thin ice

My brother raises elk; this is his bull elk (looks like it has a third antler!).

Empty nest

Animal tracks in the snow . . . raccoon?

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Slushy When It’s Going

January 23, 2012

“Snow is snowy when it’s snowing,
I’m sorry it’s slushy when it’s going.”
— Ogden Nash

Melting snow droplets on branches

The melting snow looks particularly beautiful as sparkling droplets on tree branches.  Nature has decorated the branches with strings of clear, twinkling mini-lights like necklaces of strung diamonds.

Water droplets like strings of clear lights

Glowing with a halo of snow droplets

Melting snow

Twinkling droplets

Tree Watching in the Snow

January 22, 2012

Snow with catkins and curves

“All that summer conceals, winter reveals.”
—  Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek

The leafless tree skeletons on winter reveal their unique branching patterns.  Trees have either “opposite” or “alternate” branching.  (You can learn more at this link.)

Maple trees in the snow

Tufts of snow caught on a maple branch

White web of snow caught in horse chestnut tree

“Every branch big with it,
Bent every twig with it;
Every fork like a white web-foot;
Every street and pavement mute . . .”
— Thomas Hardy, “Snow in the Suburbs”

Watercolor sketch of maple tree branching pattern

Erased Boundaries

January 21, 2012

“The light died in the low clouds.  Falling snow drank in the dusk.  Shrouded in silence, the branches wrapped me in their peace.  When the boundaries were erased, once again the wonder:  that I exist.”
— Dag Hammarskjold, Markings

Ladder partially buried in the snow

Our snowfall softened edges, erased boundaries, and shrouded our world in whites and grays.  I love how these writers and poets capture the special beauty of this transformed world.

“The snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
with a silence deep and white.”
— James Russell Lowell, “The First Snow Fall”

“Snow is white and gray, part and whole, infinitely various yet infinitely repetitious, soft and hard, frozen and melting, a creaking underfoot and a soundlessness.  But first of all it is the reversion of many into one.  It is substance, almost the idea of substance, that turns grass, driveway, hayfield, old garden, log piles, Saab, watering trough, collapsed barn, and stonewall into the one white.”
— Donald Hall, Seasons at Eagle Pond

Snow patterns, in white, on the rooftops

Canopy of white over these snowy steps

Not a Saab, but another snow blanketed vehicle -- graced with a snowman