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.

 

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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.

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.

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.

This morning was cold and windy.  The sky was cloudy and the air was filled with fine sleet and tiny snow.  Winter still has its grip, and we were on a drive exploring.  The forests can be thick or thinned.  In this one area was a wonderful stand of birch and aspen, with a few small oaks in their midst.  The colors and contrasts caught my eye –  white on white, gray on white, and brown and white.  Certainly a limited color palate, but beautiful in its starkness.

During the past week we have had three distinct snowfalls, each one giving us plenty of opportunity to be outside.  Just as we start to grumble about winter we remind ourselves that we are exercising while shoveling, we are getting Vitamin D on those mornings when the sun is sparkling over the fresh blanket of snow, and we are seeing our neighbors more regularly as we are all outside clearing our sidewalks and drives.  For some reason my snow shoveling seems to take longer than others.  I’m stopping to see the soft drifts that are piling up, I’m watching the clouds start to dissipate as the sun burns through them, I’m marveling at the brightest of blue skies overhead, I’m hearing a call of a cardinal in between the sound of snow blowers,  and I’m noticing how the snow has settled so lightly on  some of the tree branches.  All those details only enhance my appreciation of winter and its unique beauty.