The Super Bowl and its fans departed the Twin Cities last week, but the St. Paul Winter Carnival continued.  On a cold night we wandered to downtown St. Paul where the ice sculptures were on display, along with this year’s star attraction, an ice palace.  The weather has cooperated with the Winter Carnival this year, and all the attractions were still in their frozen shape (as opposed to the melting we’ve experienced in other years).  A huge ice palace was built this year and was dominant over the other activities.  This cold night brought many people out to admire the structure.  During the day when the sun has been shining and had some warmth, people have placed pennies in the large ice blocks.  The other “item” of note in the palace was the frozen walleye that was in one of the blocks on the south side.  The good news, per St. Paul Winter Carnival folklore, is that once again Vulcanus Rex and his Krewe have dominated over King Boreas, and winter will end and warmer weather will be on the horizon.

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While there’s been much excitement and numerous events throughout the Twin Cities with the Super Bowl game in town, many of our usual winter activities continue as they do in other years.  One of them, the St. Paul Winter Carnival, is in full swing.  Our weather has been wintry so the carnival’s timing is perfect for ice palaces and snow sculptures.  I wandered through the Vulcan Park snow sculptures at the State Fairground the other night.  It was cold and light flurries were starting to fall.  The sculptures were lit with changing colors and there were children and adults enjoying the evening.  This wonderful sculpture entitled “Eggloo” caught my eye with the broken egg shell and the young chick being sheltered under the wing.  On the other side of the park was a giant snow slide and I could hear the squeals and shrieks as people climbed on their sleds and flew down the slide.  All a part of winter enjoyment!

The dawn was cloudy and gray this morning.  After the first light the snow started to fall; small and delicate, the flakes floated slowly to the ground.  There wasn’t much wind, so their gracefulness was beautiful.  Within a few hours the snow stopped and the clouds cleared.  This was a direct contrast to the snowfall we had earlier in the week.  With winds up to 40 mph and snow falling at over an inch per hour, those blizzard conditions were anything but quiet and peaceful.  That snowfall accumulated to 10 inches; today’s was a light dusting.

The morning dawned quietly.  There was little wind and the air was unusually warm for mid-winter.  But we’ve been enjoying the ubiquitous January thaw the past few days – temps have climbed into the 30’s and even 40’s, people walk around without their coats, and melting and dripping are common sounds.  We were out for a drive, rounded a corner, and this lovely lake outlet was open water.  The mallard ducks were startled by our sounds and they quickly took flight.  But the stillness of winter was evident in the reflection of the trees in the water and the large piece of ice that hadn’t given up to the warmth just yet.

There’s a delicious quiet that permeates dawn when the ground is covered with snow and the temperature hovers at 15 below zero.  The rest of the world is slumbering and keeping warm.  But the dawn awakens with a pink and orange glow on the far horizon, slowly trying to chase the waning moon from its low position in the sky.  The dawn’s light gradually becomes brighter and the moon’s light fades.  Sunlight is short this morning as the clouds move in after a couple of hours, followed by rising temperatures above zero and then snow blows across the landscape.  The beauty and quiet of dawn seems a distant memory.

Our temperatures climbed into the 20’s today, making it much more enjoyable to be outside.  I headed out for a walk in the woods this afternoon.  All was quiet except for the sound of my boots breaking through the snow.  Occasionally the wind would kick up and rustle the remaining oak leaves that have stiffened in the cold and still cling to the trees.  As we’re in the northern part of the United States, north of the 45th parallel of north latitude, the sun still hangs low in the sky even near noon, resulting in lovely shadows that stretch across the landscape.  With snow covering the ground, these shadows create patterns and designs that are soft and seem to dance in the wind.  It was a beautiful show that was put on for me as I stood in the relative quiet to soak up the available sun.

One year closes and another opens, much like the sunset that closes out each day and the sunrise the starts the following day.  Today marks the close of 2017 – a year filled with adventures, travels, and events that I truly couldn’t have envisioned or seen ahead to back on January 1st.  And as I look forward to 2018, I see a horizon with brightness and color, new adventures and things that I can’t foresee right now.  But I’m ready to step out through that sunrise and embrace all that lies ahead.  Happy new year to all of you, and I hope you continue along with me in the new year.