A few last photos of snow markings and mysteries here -- first a leaf still firmly gripped by the stem, after a very windy night. Then a picture story from our front stoop, though we aren't quite sure of the plot. That's presumably the imprint of the tips of a bird's wing and tail -- but what are those five parallel lines? And finally a snow illusion similar to that familiar psychology print which you perceive as either an old or young woman. Do you see ridges or depressions?
Then the switch to Daylight Savings Time came this past Sunday, and so did the switch from snow to spring, with a few days of melting, and icicle creations giving way to the first spring flowers. Before the snow was gone, the snowdrops were up and by yesterday they were starting to open. The next few days are predicted to be in the high 50s, so maybe even the snow on the north side of the house will finally melt. Spring is on the way!
Last Saturday we were at Camp Friedenswald, for Open Table Mennonite Fellowship's first retreat. I was able to get out to the fen in the early afternoon and enjoy its winter garb. By evening the snow had started and it continued to fall through the night. Back in Elkhart county, many churches canceled their services. Ours went ahead as planned, with a beautiful view of snow falling in the peaceful woods, seen through the windows of the Nature Center (a memory picture rather than a photo, since I was leading worship).
By the time we got home mid-afternoon, there was at least a foot of snow in the drive, and we had to shovel before we could pull into the garage. By Monday the sun was shining brightly over thick caps of snow on trees, bushes, and lamp posts. In other spots, the wind created contours. And yesterday I looked out at our backyard hemlocks, and found them full of glinting icicles, like a Christmas tree covered with tinsel -- but much colder! While some hung as straight as the icicles dangling from the neighbor's eaves, others had more intriguing shapes.
Snow still prevailed as March began, now interspersed with thaws that gave us glimpses of snowdrops. One melting snow mound in mid-March revealed a newspaper buried in January. The plastic bag kept it dry, and its headline was still quite appropriate. A record setting winter indeed.
In April, the woods and marsh by the dam still had plenty of brown, but also the calls of returning red-wing blackbirds, a sure sign of spring. It was a special delight to discover spring flowers and green new leaves pushing up through the mat of old leaves.
After the leaves fell, and the temperatures fell, and the snow fell. . . here we are in winter. Just a skiff of snow, but enough for abstract patterns on the sidewalk. And enough to provide a backdrop for the delicate patterns of this dried plant growing on the edge of the prairie plantings on campus.
Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
Little Gidding, T.S. Eliot
"Midwinter spring" seems like an appropriate label for these days, even though Eliot was writing about a warm midwinter in England, and ours is a spring that keeps slipping back to midwinter.
Several batches of balloons blew into our back yard one day when the sun was out and the snow had mostly melted and the calendar declared spring had arrived. So I tied them on the birdfeeder in celebration of spring. The photo above was what they looked like the next day, March 21.
Below there is a slideshow of the corner of our front flower bed where the snowdrop bulbs are planted. I took these about every two days between March 3 and 18, eagerly watching for the snowdrops as the snow came and went. And came and went. And came and went. Even with the sempiternal snow, the snowdrops lived up to their name! (If you receive this as an email, you may need to go to the actual website to see the slideshow. The cycle ends with a photo of snowdrops with white blooms).
For the past few weeks I have been busy with the final stages of helping edit a collection of essays on Assembly Mennonite's history, too busy to get to my blog. With a warmer week, our snow is melting fast, so it is time to post these before they are completely out of date. Snow and shadows and such.
Check out the avian snow angel on the lower right in the photo above. A telephoto lens would have been handy, but I did what I could before the shadow covered it entirely.
And below, the date on the paper is January 25. I found it this past Saturday, March 15, on the front lawn, after the massive pile up of snow it had been in for the past several weeks melted -- still in its plastic bag and quite readable. I thought it was an appropriate headline. We broke the previous record of 100 inches of snow back before the most recent six inch snow dump.
Earlier this week, a rare snow serpent raised its hoary head in our front yard. Or perhaps it's a snowy version of a summer thundercloud, lit from behind.
We still have plenty of snow on the ground, though next week's predicted warmer temperatures should keep it melting. Somewhere under the voluptuous snow below, there are snowdrop bulbs.
I got curious about how things looked a year ago. The last four photos are from the front yard on February 17, 2013. There was a dusting of snow in the morning, but it melted by midday, and I found an eager-beaver dandelion in the grass, crocus shoots in the flowerbed and snowdrops beginning to bloom. A slightly different picture than we have this year -- those snowdrops are somewhere under the two feet of snow in the middle of the photo below. It's hard to imagine, but one day soon we'll be seeing them again. (This is called faith. Expectant faith -- a good thing to have any time of year.)
Here's a mystery. Most of the tracks in our yard are easy to figure out -- the patterns of bird feet under the feeder, the rabbit crossing from here to there, the squirrel bounding from the maple to the feeder and back again, the cat that prowls the edges. But what is the story behind the photo above? Apparently one night a rabbit hopped out to the middle of the yard, danced crazily for a few moments and then lopped away to the protective cover of the privet.
And then there's sunshine and shadow on snow, and the light-catching crystals of hoarfrost on dried plants.
Notice the tracks in the snow on the bird bath. Just before the photo above, the cardinal hopped across the bird bath, stopping now and then with its head to one side, looking for all the world like he was thinking, "Wait, something is just not right here."
Snow and cold weather continues. Birds at the feeder are a bright spot in the day. The flocks of house sparrows are commonplace, but still I am glad to see them finding shelter in the green branches of snow-capped yew bushes below my window on a snowy day, while the sight of cheery cardinal red or the black cap of a perky chickadee gives my spirits a lift.The spiral of terra cotta birds on our back porch don't need the birdfeeder, but they seem to be enjoying the warmth of early morning sunlight nonetheless.
It snowed and it snowed and it snowed. And then, the next morning, January 6, the sun shone bright in a clear, cold sky. I chose to enjoy the warmth of our house instead of heading out with my camera, given wind chills of 40 below. Even so, there was an ever-changing show from our windows, with intriguing play of light and shadow and snowy shapes as the day went on.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"