landscapes


Last weekend brought yet another snowfall (which we are all hoping is the last large snow of this winter season).  It was a beautiful snow – large flakes that drifted down and settled on everything.  The tree branches were outlined in snow, showing their structure.  The woods were quiet except for the sound of my snowshoes; with snow depths up to 20 inches snowshoes were required.  I love being out in nature during a snowfall.  Everything is magically softened and the world is enveloped in a special quiet.

Advertisements

Last weekend we ventured to Hayward, Wisconsin to enjoy the American Birkebeiner (aka the Birkie).  The largest cross-country ski race in North America draws thousands of people – skiers, friends, family, observers – to this small north woods town.  Weather conditions were much more favorable this year as there was an excess of snow for the course.  As the skiers make their way across Hayward Lake and enter the town, they ski up the Birkie Bridge which takes them over US Highway 63 and then down Main Street to the finish line.  Spectators crowd the sidewalks of Main Street ringing cow bells, cheering, and offering encouragement while celebrating with brats, beer, Bloody Marys, and cheese curds.  It’s a wonderful celebration of winter and the athletes.

The snow had been falling for hours.  To counter my cabin fever, I strapped on my snowshoes and headed into the woods.  The air was filled with quiet except for the occasional wind that would stir and force the snow to fall from the branches.  I hadn’t expected the snow to be so very deep in the woods, but it was tough and slow trudging through knee-deep snow.  Needless to say it took me much longer than I had expected.  But I was rewarded with beautiful snowy vistas, exercise in the fresh outdoors, and I was even serenaded by trumpeter swans in the distance.

 

The cold and snow make us pause.  We can’t hurry and just do the things we normally do — walking on ice-covered paths takes attention and concentration, and five to ten minutes are the minimum just to bundle up to step out in sub-zero temperatures.  But pausing gives us time to observe and to appreciate.  This bubble becomes frozen in a near instant, with crystals forming on the inside and refracting the morning light as the sun rises over the new fallen snow.  Many other bubbles broke as they landed, too fragile to absorb an impact on the soft snow.  And even this bubble was short-lived.  The wind picked up and it shattered quickly; how happy I was that it commanded my attention for a short span.

It was a bitter cold day and evening but the sun had been shining and the blue sky had beckoned people outside.  I was at Lake Como and there were walkers and runners following the path around the lake, there was one lone ice fisherman, and there were people who had laced up their skates and were gliding across the ice where the surface was smooth.  It was a glorious time, and the sunset glowed in the ice surface and in the clouds above.  For a few moments it was beautiful, and not quite as cold as we thought.

Take a rainstorm that makes everything wet, drop the temperature so the rain changes to sleet, the sleet changes to ice, and then drop the temperature more and it snows.  And the snow clings to everything – the branches, the oak leaves, the pine trees, the sedges.  Our world became a winter wonderland with everything coated with white snow.  It was stunning, and it was so easy to appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature in winter.

These are the days of long shadows.  As we get closer to the winter solstice the sun is lower in the sky as the earth tilts.  In Minnesota and Wisconsin we are north of the 45th parallel so “our tilt” seems more noticeable.  This photo was taken at noon, but my shadow is nowhere close to being right beneath me as it is in the summer.  Instead the sun is only 123 degrees above the horizon, elongating my shadow.

This is our winter — longer shadows, shorter days, colder temperatures.

Next Page »