Monday, January 25, 2016

A Change of View

By Beth Sullivan
Amazing what a fresh snow cover does to our perception of the landscape. The uniform tones of brown and gray on the woodland floor have been covered. The new background allows everything else to stand out more sharply.
Delicate shadows would be overlooked in other seasons.

Fallen logs are now more dimensional with their layer of white, softening the top and creating horizontal intersections amid the upright trunks. Trees of varied species seem to exaggerate their differences now. It is easier to see the texture of bark: smooth slate colored Beech, ripples and ragged edges of Yellow Birch, the rugged cross hatch of Sassafras , Ash and Oak, the long loose “shags” on the Hickory. Each of these designs repeated over and over in the woodlots . The pattern of branching limbs seems easier to note now, easier to spy the lone leaf still holding on, fluttering beige against the backdrop of white. Nature study in winter is dependent on more subtle things now with no flowers and leaves to aid identification.
Time to look more closely at bark.

Snow: not what you think

The purity of whiteness is reflective of light and brightness now. To many it is just white. But take time, look harder, note the blues and lavenders of shadows. Shades of gray. Look for golden sparkles and diamonds . Textures and designs. The white of new snow is never just white. It is never just snow.
There's a lot of color in a white landscape.

The sharp sunlight and extreme angle of the sun allow shadows to be more exaggerated, more intense. You can never see this when there is greenery on the ground and foliage to break up the patterns.
Drifts and shadows spark the creative imagination.

Take a look up. On the most special of days, after a fresh snow, the sky is cobalt and clear. The branches white and lacey. It doesn’t happen often.
Snow transforms wood into lace.

Take a larger view. Look at the bones of the landscape. Rising from the snow, the rocks and ridges, boulders, erratics are far more outstanding. Small caves are darker, deeper. A rock or stone rising from the leaves is now more isolated from everything else in its sea of snow. The gray granite takes on clearer brighter tones. It seems easier to notice the patterns of lichen and flecks of mica and pink feldspar. Drifts swirl around rock bases to change the shape of what we thought we knew. The stone walls look softer now. Snow nestled into the nooks and crannies. They seem timeless. A stone wall and a wolf tree in the snow. A scene unchanged for generations.
Stone walls and a wolf tree have seen decades of snow. 

Take a smaller view 

Look at the grass emerging from the snow and the pattern its shadow makes now. A small emerald bit of moss is so much more jewel like peeking from a pillow of white. So much more appreciated now.
Snow waves are like ocean waves.

We may have been overdosed with snow last year, but each new snowfall brings opportunities to appreciate the special beauty of this season.
Take a child out and show them, or let them show you!

Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

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