winter


Like many other people, I’ve been feeling the bombardment of so many things that are happening in our lives.  I’ve been kept awake at night thinking about the divisiveness that exists in my country, my state, and my city.  I’ve lost sleep over the strange happenings of weather – fires in the west that are too huge to imagine the destruction that’s being caused, feet of rain falling from hurricanes making landfall, and the vegetation changes happening here in Minnesota and Wisconsin that’s affecting our wildlife populations of moose, deer, and loons.  Then there are the worries of a continuing pandemic that has  killed hundreds of thousands here in the US – a number that has already surpassed the combined US combat deaths of World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War; the pain sometimes seems too much to fathom.

For me, turning to nature is a balm over these anxieties.  Each morning the earth has completed it’s turn, the darkness of night fades, and the sun returns again.  The leaves are now beginning their color change as the calendar approaches autumn.  I stand out on the dock where the lake temperature has cooled after the heat of summer but is now warmer than the outside air temperature in the early dawn.  The steam rises off the lake, the sun rises over the horizon, and in the distance I can hear the geese calling.  Soon they will be leaving this area and migrating south.  The air temperature will continue to fall as we slide into winter, and the lake will ice over as our days grow shorter and shorter.  And then slowly all these things will reverse.  These are the constants I’m trying to focus on and appreciate.

The past two weeks have humbled me quite unexpectedly.  I took a bad slip on a frozen sidewalk and landed on my right leg and ankle.  A ride with the EMT’s took me to the local trauma hospital’s emergency room and a set of x-rays were taken.  Turned out I’d dislocated the ankle and had a trimalleolar fracture with breaks in three bones.  Surgery was scheduled the next day and I came out with plates, screws, wires and lots of hardware holding all those bones together.  Yesterday the plaster splint was removed and I got to see the results of the good surgeon’s work.  Luckily the breaks are healing and the stitches on both sides of my ankle were removed.  I’m now in a boot keeping my ankle immobile, but I cannot put any weight on the foot.  I’ve learned many lessons in these two weeks and some that I’m still learning.  Patience and slowing down are essential now — I couldn’t rush to do anything if I wanted to.  I’m unable to put any weight on my right leg, so I’m reliant on the walker to give me the support I need when I’m upright.  Friends and family are wonderful — flowers, phone calls, text messages, gifts, food, and visits have all brightened my days and given me something else to focus on.  I appreciate our medical system, doctors, nurses, assistants, PCA’s, EMT’s — I’ve been treated and taken care of by people who were smart, experienced, knowledgeable, and kind.  People who saw to my comfort and needs as they were dealing with many other patients too.  Yes, I’m not happy with the broken leg and the distant horizon of the end of May before I can walk “normally.”   But the past two weeks have given me a different perspective on the things that I have taken for granted so many times in the past – something as simple as walking, getting outside to enjoy the fresh air, and the people who I am lucky enough to call family and friends.

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.

Winter has been fickle this year – snow, more snow, thawing, ice, rain, sleet.  What will greet us in the morning is entirely up to Mother Nature.  But on a recent morning it was cold enough for frost to outline the trees and leaves, and cold enough for the snow to still be lovely and white.  The intense pink and magenta sunrise was fleeting and quickly gave way to fog and low clouds.  The wind was still and the air was silent as I stood by this creek, reflecting the trees and overcast sky as the water meandered through the outlet.

Wishing all of you experiences of joy and wonder in the upcoming new year!

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