January 19, 2015

Snow Lines

Along with the trials of winter come its delights. Some are rare and fleeting, like hoar frost; we hope others are lasting, such as a blanketing of snow. One of my favorite aspects of the season is what I might call the "Winter Wonderland" effect: snow that clings to every surface, branch and bough and grass stem. If the weather conditions are perfect, this can last for several days, but more often the trees are bare within a few hours. Yesterday we had a brief January thaw, accompanied by rain; this after a bitter cold beginning of the month, which I wrote about here. Overnight the rain turned to a heavy wet snow, and I woke this morning to a white world. When snow clings to branches, there is a doubling effect: the dark lines of branch are emphasized by their ghostly twin. An apple tree tree becomes a welter of lines.

Branches are highlighted against the dark wood, their more delicate lines encased in soft covers.

The curves of hydrangea branches become clear and rhythmic with the snow.

Even a slanting support wire cover has its snowy twin.

In the woods, the crisscross of branches is brightened by the lines of snow.

With a bit of sun peaking out from scudding clouds, snow-lined branches are haloed.

The spaces in the woods shift and sparkle; instead of browns and gray-greens above, there is white, white that encloses the thin lines of dark, and it makes a fairyland.

This magical kingdom did not last: the temperature rose and the wind blew, and by late afternoon much of the snow had fallen off the branches. Earlier, frozen droplets of moisture dangled poignantly from the ends of evergreens. Snow, water, ice: winter's varied precipitation.


  1. Your snow is quite beautiful. Here I worked in the garden mucking through a half inch of mud. It will refreeze sometime soon because we have snow predicted here. I prefer snow to mud this time of year.

  2. I remember trying to sketch "realistic" snow-covered trees when I was ten years old. After looking and looking to try to see what I was failing to capture in my drawing, I realized that the snow (white) lay on the boughs and twigs (dark) and that the outlines I was accustomed to drawing did not reflect the real world. The real world has no outlines! This was a kind of revelation to a 10-year-old.

    I got a piece of gray construction paper, a piece of white chalk, and my charcoal stick, and sat by the window just looking. I do not have the drawing anymore, but I recall that was perhaps the first time that I understood how seeing makes a difference in sketching...and that I felt my attempt was 'successful.'

    Thanks for sparking that memory with these photos and your post!

  3. What a great, limited palette!
    It's crazy what water can do.
    Your "snow lines" and "sun-haloes" reminds me of Ice-lines...when we have an ice-storm and the sun comes out...the spheres of light around the sun, described by tree-branches, difficult to look-at, and impossible not-to!

  4. Thank you, all, for your thoughts about snow and ice and memory and gardening.