snow


A week ago I spent some time at Amnicon Falls State Park in northern Wisconsin.  The snow was especially deep this past winter and it is starting to melt making the rivers full, especially as they near their end.  The Amnicon River was used in the mid-1800’s for logging and it eventually flows into Lake Superior.  All the snow melt from upstream gets directed over the falls that are in the state park.  It was a thundering sound that I heard as I walked next to the Upper Falls.  The river is open in some places and in others it flows under snow and ice.  The falls aren’t completely open but it won’t be long before the snow and ice are gone.  A bit further past the Upper Fall is a lovely walking bridge that crosses the river as it spills over the Lower Falls and eventually to the lake.

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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.

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.

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.

There is a small diner/restaurant in the neighborhood where we live.  I pass it almost every day when I’m out for a walk.  The window glass reflects the fallen leaves and their textures, along with the empty bike rack by the street, onto the plates and the table top.  Although the diner isn’t open when I go by it’s comforting to see the dishes and silverware and napkins sitting on the tables waiting for someone’s arrival… just as we are waiting for the upcoming holidays, winter, and snow with the turn of the calendar to December..

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