Sunday, January 31, 2021

Musings on a snowy morning

Delicate pine needles held and 
then captured the even
more delicate snow.
We haven’t had a lot of snow yet this season. There are pros and cons to that and many would argue over whether it is good or bad. I myself am not fond of a lot of snow, but I would much rather see normal snowfall, in the proper time frame, to keep plants and animals in sync with their natural seasonal responses. In recent years we have had delayed starts to winter, we have had less snow cover to protect plants during winter. We have had warm spells way too early which trigger sap flows and bud swelling, only to be followed by late snow and deep freezes that wreak havoc on every one and every thing. 

 But awakening to a beautiful January snowfall this past Wednesday was a well-timed gift. I don’t think anyone can deny the beauty of a light, fluffy snow; pristine in the morning hours, still coating every small branch. There is a pull to get out the door. Not necessarily to get the walkways and driveways clear, but maybe to be the first to set foot in the untouched snow on a favorite trail. 

I was not the first creature to 
set foot on the trails
Things just look so different in the snow, not just because of the whiteness, but because of the way some details are covered up and others stand out. Stepping into the woods, all the distracting details of leaves and browns and grays of rocks and wood, were covered. Instead the trees looked draped in lace with intricate patterns of delicate white threading through the branches. It was still early and there was no wind, no melting to disturb the snow on even the smallest twig. But when there was a motion of falling snow, it was an easy way to notice a bird or squirrel over head. 

I wasn’t the first creature on the path that morning. Several deer had walked through the woods before me, following their own trails. They seem to follow the same patterns of travel month after month, season after season, through these woods of the Woodlot Sanctuary. Then I found the tracks of a squirrel. It was fun to note where it had left the ground and jumped into a tree and also to note where it tried to uncover a hidden stash of seeds or acorns, by 
digging several holes in an area. At one point set of canine prints joined the trail. They were most certainly coyote tracks and it appeared that the animal was very comfortable using the same trail that I was now. It stopped and investigated where the squirrel had been digging. Snow allows us to see things that would be otherwise invisible. A month ago I wrote of needing to search for rabbit pellets on bare ground. They are so much easier to see with snow! 

I never would have noticed the 
stairstep patterns on this rock
if not for the snow.
But walking in the snow wasn’t just about tracking things. The snow made certain shapes and designs stand out in ways that we wouldn’t ordinarily notice. Against the snow white background, lichens on the rocks stood out more distinctly. The soft brown leaves on the beech trees took on a greater brilliance in the snow. Designs were created by ordinary objects when covered irregularly by the light snow. 

It’s fun to take photos and then look at them later to see what the camera has captured. But, always make sure you spend more time stopping, and looking with your own eyes, to fully appreciate a beautiful, fleeting, snowy morning. Be in the moment and cherish it. 

by Beth Sullivan

The soft brown beech leaves took on
a warmer, more outstanding glow.

The details of this lichen
just jumped out into
view against the 
background of pure white.
Some things are just a lot
easier to see in the snow!

Where a rock, covered in lichen and moss, retained
some heat from the ground, the snow receded
and left it in view.

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