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.

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.

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!

Today is the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice.  After this dark night our days will become longer and filled with more light.

Wishing you all a bright and wonderful Christmas, and a new year filled with light and wonder.

The snow of winter has a way of draping its white over everything.  The trees become lined emphasizing their structure and branches.  The ground becomes white showing the curves and hips of hills.  At the University of Minnesota Saint Paul campus is a wonderful sculpture setting of cows.  These bigger than life animals are resting peacefully in their urban setting.  The snow has draped over them also, quietly emphasizing their repose and seeming indifference to the weather.  They’re a great reminder to me to accept the weather, accept the snow, and appreciate its beauty.

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.

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.