winter


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.

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It was another bitterly cold day in the Twin Cities.  Suffering from cabin fever from our long drawn-out winter, we were looking for a diversion and headed to the Weisman Art Museum on the campus of the University of Minnesota.  The visit was wonderful –  a chance to forget about the weather and get absorbed in the art inside.  The building itself was designed by Frank Gehry and features his Deconstructivist style architecture.  The outside panels are a treat for photographers as they reflect the surroundings.   With the cold sunshine there were amazing abstracts, lines, designs, and colors.

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.

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.

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