My favorite time of the day is sunrise and dawn. The earth slowly turns out of the darkness of night and gradually there is light. At first it’s barely perceptible but gingerly the black turns to shadow. The sun nears the horizon and it’s light gets scattered above, bouncing off any clouds that are near giving them their own colors and hues. Generally, not always, the daytime winds have subsided during the night and the air is calm – as if in anticipation of the dawn. All the colors of the sunrise are reflected in the smoothness of the still lake. The loons are long gone but as the light gets brighter I can hear the ducks and geese that have not yet headed south for winter. They are gathering in larger flocks before they depart. At this point everything pauses for a suspended moment.
And then the sun rises higher in the sky throwing it’s brightness all around, the wind picks up and riffles across the lake surface, the geese and ducks take flight, the squirrels start to scurry, and our human noise of activity echos throughout the area greeting another day.
Just when we were resigning ourselves to the prospect of a brown Christmas, the snow moved into the Twin Cities yesterday afternoon. It snowed throughout the evening and into the early morning hours, and when I awoke today our scenery was coated with four inches of white and fluffy snow. I grabbed my camera and headed over to Como Park early. There were few people on the streets but even the sound of the three or four cars was muffled by the snow. After about 15 minutes of walking I could hear a snow shovel scraping the pavement. When I arrived at the park I could see, and eventually hear, the sound of the trail groomer as she laid down the cross-country ski track; we exchanged waves as she drove past. Another five minutes passed before I heard the whish of a skier coming up behind me. And shortly after that the sound of geese flying south filled the air. It was one skein of geese after another, no longer content to be in an area of frozen lakes and ponds and headed to warmer climes. I watched and wondered how far south they would fly today. Another ten minutes passed and I could hear children’s laughter and squeals as they were sledding with abandon down a nearby hill. The time passed quickly and as I headed back home the city had awakened. Traffic was moving carefully on the snow-covered streets and people were either shoveling their walks and drives or using snow blowers to clear the paths. The sounds of winter have arrived once again.
We have turned the corner here in the Twin Cities — back to a liquid landscape. Our snow has melted (mostly) and we’ve even had some rain. It’s been music to our ears to hear the sounds of dripping snow and ice, and to once again see and hear rain falling. However, it does mean that we have quite a bit of standing water as well as flood threats on a substantial number of rivers. With sunshine and blue skies above, I set out on a long walk to the library yesterday. Now that the snow is mostly gone there is evidence remaining of what a harsh and early winter we had. Our lawn is filled with leaves that were unraked before our first snow – that first snow that never melted and was followed by another 80+ inches throughout the winter. Many trees are showing damage because of the excess weight of the snow. I’m sure some will recover, but it appears that others may not. Yet there’s a lightness in the air and the hope of spring. Just like me, there are people finding excuses to be outside and enjoying the warm sunshine. The birds are busy chirping and singing, and many of the migratory birds are coming back into the area. I was especially thrilled to hear the honking of a small flock of Canada geese as they flew over our house. They too know that spring has returned to Minnesota.
Winter has arrived this week, and with it so many changes. For the past six days, our temperatures have stayed below freezing. We’ve had some blowing snow, although not enough to cover the grass. But the cold weather is now allowing Mother Nature to ice over our lakes and ponds. Many of the Canada geese are flying high in the sky, heading south to warmer climes. Whereas before we heard their calls in the early morning and before sunset, now they are continuous throughout the day as they journey away in large flocks before the winter becomes harder and colder. What waterfowl remain, find it slippery going on the once-liquid lakes. Soon the transition to winter will be complete and we will revel in her white and shimmering beauty.