winter


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.

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I spent an hour watching the rivalry play out at our bird feeder the other day.  There were black capped chickadees and red breasted nuthatches coming and going freely, getting their fill of seed prior to the cold snap moving in.  Suddenly they would disperse, and one of the red bellied woodpeckers would take over the feeder.  Their size and aggressiveness would send the smaller birds away.  But don’t rule them out…the chickadees and nuthatches would fly in quickly, grab their seed, and leave just as quickly.  Eventually the woodpeckers would move to the nearby trees, and the smaller birds would reign over the seeds.  It was fascinating to watch, and it seemed that everyone had their time at the feeder.

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.

Backlit blowing snow 21409_StaatsDawn broke early with a fresh white snowfall.  The sun traveled upwards but the dark clouds to the east were moving in.  They seemed to curtain off the sunlight and it streamed onto the snow-covered lake.  With a sudden gust, the wind blew the resting snow off the tree branches and it cascaded to the ground, backlit by the sun.  It was momentary and it was breath taking –  all in a split second.

After a week or more with below freezing temperatures, we reveled in a day of 40 degrees and sunshine.  I took advantage of our “heat wave” and went for a long walk that took me through Como Park.  As I went past the lake it was wonderful to see the snow and ice patterns.  The dark areas in the photograph are clear ice, interrupted by the white snow that had been blown across the lake.  There were lots of big cracks going through the surface too.  Once we get back to our cold temperatures, the ice will continue to form….all a part of winter in Minnesota.

This past week there was a full moonrise – the strawberry moon, as it’s called.  Although I can’t attest to seeing a strawberry tint where I was, the moonrise was beautiful.  The sun had set, the wind had stilled, and the night air held the warmth and humidity of the day.  Slowly the moon rose above the trees on the opposite shore, clearing them and throwing its reflection into the lake below.  If you listened for awhile you could hear the cry of a loon.  And in the grasses by the side of the lake, the fireflies started to blink.  It was a beautiful night — just the kind we dream of during the bitter cold of winter.

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