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.

There’s a delicious quiet that permeates dawn when the ground is covered with snow and the temperature hovers at 15 below zero.  The rest of the world is slumbering and keeping warm.  But the dawn awakens with a pink and orange glow on the far horizon, slowly trying to chase the waning moon from its low position in the sky.  The dawn’s light gradually becomes brighter and the moon’s light fades.  Sunlight is short this morning as the clouds move in after a couple of hours, followed by rising temperatures above zero and then snow blows across the landscape.  The beauty and quiet of dawn seems a distant memory.

Dancing in the sunlight_Staats8559I love the simplicity of our winter landscape.  The white snow clears the distractions and leaves a clean canvas.  As I was out for a walk one day I found these plants above the snow.  With the sun behind them and their shadows splayed out over the white snow, it appeared they were dancing with their shadows.  Similar to a water surface reflection, however the white brings everything down to the basics.  Just like in the cold of winter, we look to the basics of warmth, protection from the cold and wind, and the optimism that spring will be on our doorstep eventually.

Winter colors after the snow 7D_0667_StaatsOur winter landscape has been blanketed in white since early December, and each week a bit more snow has been added to the ground.  I headed out for a snowshoe walk early yesterday morning at the golf course on the University of Minnesota Saint Paul campus.  The city was quiet for a Saturday morning — no commuter traffic, no snowplows clearing the roads yet, and most people were still in their beds.  As I got into the center of the golf course I realized that it really wasn’t as quiet as I had thought.  There were birds flitting from tree to tree chirping their greetings, and tracks in the snow where the squirrels had scampered from one area to another.  And then I noticed that the landscape wasn’t really quite so white.  Although the gray sky was reflecting in the snow cover, the oak trees still had their reddish-brown leaves clinging to the branches, some of the blonde grasses were blowing lightly in the breeze, and the pine trees were green with a coating of snow.  The landscape was a study of muted contrasts and  colors.