It was a cold day with a temperature of 16 degrees, but the sun was shining brilliantly and beckoned us outside.  We packed our snowshoes and went to Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary in northwest Wisconsin.  The wind was brisk, but if we could snowshoe along the tree line there was a welcome wind break.  There was even protection from the wind as we headed across the prairie, and in the valleys of the steep hills we could bask in the sun’s heat.  It was late afternoon so the sun threw its shadows across the landscape at a sharp angle.  We soaked up the sun and the crisp fresh air of the day and enjoyed the exercise.

I awoke last weekend to an amazing winter wonderland.  The air was cold and still and everything was coated with white hoarfrost.  The tree branches were outlined in frost, each individual leaf was outlined, and everything was shining white.  I wandered the nearby roads and saw pine trees and shrubs, oak trees and weather vanes, all outlined in white.  Even though our snow pack had gotten old and not-so-white, the hoarfrost brightened the entire landscape and gave it a magical look.

We’d finished our “work” for the day and it was mid-afternoon on an unseasonably balmy day for the North with a temperature of 34 degrees.  We loaded up the sled with our ice fishing equipment and headed out across the lake.  Leaving a trail behind us, we settled near the middle of the lake, set up our portable fish house and settled in for some comfortable fishing.  With protection from the wind, we fished for a couple of hours coming back with crappies, sunfish, and one Northern pike.  We packed up after dusk and were beckoned back to the cabin with its warm lights.  It was a delightful end to a mid-winter’s day.

We are in the midst of the coolest celebration on earth – the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.  One of my favorite events to attend is the snow sculptures.  Teams work for hours taking a huge block of compacted snow and cutting and carving and sculpting it into a work of art.  In years past I’ve only seen the sculptures after they were completed, but this year I decided to take in the actual carving.  I found some teams with elaborate hand drawn sketches and plans for their sculpture, and other teams that had small dolls or toys that they were using for their design.  The tools, measurements, and time that go into these works of art is amazing.   The temperatures have been warmer than usual which created some challenges for the sculpting but the end results are always amazing.

The snow had started to fall at sunset the previous day and continued all night.  The morning dawned quiet and lovely with the fresh snow blanketing the landscape.  The clouds had remained thick and then there was a brief opening, long enough for the sun to penetrate the cloud cover with its hazy rays for less than a minute.  The sun disappeared behind the clouds, the snow began again, and this brief scene was the only sunshine for the day.

Sometimes the beauty of winter takes my breath away –  the clearest of blue skies, ice and frost lining the tree limbs, the bright sunlight beaming down, and the fresh snow reflecting that sunlight in small diamonds all across the frozen lake in front of me.

The end of 2019 brought a beautiful fresh snowfall to Minnesota and Wisconsin.  What started out as sleet and rain ended as three to four inches of snow that clung to the wet branches and leaves.  Our surroundings became a true winter wonderland.  Without a strong wind and with temperatures below freezing, we celebrated the start of a new year surrounded by this beauty.  The setting sun through the winter forest brought a stream of golden light onto the frozen pond in front of me.  I stood here for awhile, marveling at the light blue tinted snow and the golden sun piercing through the trees.  Quickly the sun moved further below the horizon and the moment was over, replaced with the dark of night and a canopy of bright stars overhead.