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Posts Tagged ‘winter’

snowy apparition

In the early morning light, seemingly white glowing forms consult with one another on the front lawn.  Are they extra-terrestrial beings, come to gather information about life here around Flandrum Hill?  Or are they displaced apparitions, caught between dimensions due to an anomaly in the space-time continuum?

snow remnants

Upon closer inspection, their true nature is revealed.  Who would have thought the remains of snow could have appeared so other-worldly?

remains of snow

While most of the snow from last week’s snowstorm has melted, the remnants of a large snow tower built on the front lawn have survived.   Warm temperatures weren’t enough to melt such a large heap of snow, especially one placed in the  shadow of the house for most of the day.  Up close, the snow reveals debris acquired both from the lawn when large snowballs were rolled to create it, and from a windstorm days later.

debris in snow

Haunting silhouettes formed in the negative spaces make these ruins more interesting in their decaying form than they ever were as a tower of snow.

negative silhouette in snow

Once the sun rises on Sunday, the ruins will be covered with a fresh layer of snow along with the rest of the lawn.  They’ll no longer stand out in the landscape.  One of snow’s most magical qualities is that it is so ephemeral.  Except of course when you’re shoveling it!

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

 

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tree shadows on snow

Even in Canada where winter is so much a part of our lives, it seems like we seldom have anything good to say about our cold climate.  Everyone was complaining of record-breaking cold this week, the harshest in recent memory.  Even the squirrel in the yard seemed to be jumping farther and faster than usual in an attempt to spend as little time as possible out on the snow.

red squirrel jumping across snow

Surprisingly, there are actually some benefits to living in a cold climate.  Our air is fresh, and long cold spells prevent too many insects from surviving through to the next summer, benefits we usually don’t consider until our kitchens are bombarded with ants in the middle of a sticky summer heat wave.  Snow’s insulating properties also keep small rodents dreaming beneath the drifts at this time of year, instead of trying to find shelter in our homes.

A cold climate also has a positive impact on our intelligence, especially our ability to delay gratification. The mental functions required to store food, dress warmly and create adequate shelter are crucial to survival in harsh environments.

mint in winter

Inedible, dried brown mint in winter

It’s no wonder the Vikings were the first Europeans to make a settlement on this side of the Atlantic.  Habitually doing hard things in a harsh environment gave these cold climate dwellers an edge over other cultures.  Their ability to shrug off the cold and wholeheartedly embrace winter survives to this day.  Though polar dipping may not be to everyone’s liking, at the very least, cold winters incite us to practice hope and patience as we wait for the warmer days ahead.

Last year's pussywillows

Last year’s pussy willows

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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windshield in winter

Like most Canadians, I dread being faced with an icy windshield to scrape off before heading out to work in the morning.  That’s after clearing the driveway of course.

driveway cleared after snowfallThe longer your driveway, the less excitement you’re likely to feel at the first big dump of snow.   Though you might approach it as a good exercise workout the first time you shovel the driveway, that can wear a little thin after the third time in as many days.  And absolutely nothing is more irritating at this time of year than the sound of the street snowplow driving by and filling the end of your driveway with even more snow after you thought you had lifted your last shovelful.

snow on lichensHowever, there is a bright side to snow.  I especially like the way it trims the trees and lichens in the forest…

snow in woods

… And the way it tastes.  Blended with cream and sugar, fresh fallen snow makes a snow-cream that’s more refreshing than ice-cream.

Fresh snow, cream and sugar make delicious snow-cream.

Fresh snow, cream and sugar make delicious snow-cream.

Note:  it’s not a good idea to use snow from the season’s first snowfall as this may contain too many impurities. Give it a try. You can always burn the calories while shoveling the driveway 😉

Fresh snow-cream

Fresh snow-cream

This blog post was created in response to Views Infinitum’s Assignment 23:  Winter.   Scott has asked participants to show what winter means to us.  The assignment is open to all.  Deadline for submissions is Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 at midnight (your local time).

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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Although seeing a butterfly in springtime is always a joy, seeing one in winter is sure to set anyone’s heart aflutter. 

These fragile creatures, known for their marvelous ability to transform themselves from caterpillar to winged wonder, have often been employed as symbols of the soul, hope and renewal.

In late winter when there is still the threat of harsh weather, one doesn’t expect to find such a delicate creature in the woods. My grandson was turning a log over in the forest to examine a shelf fungus more closely when he caught sight of the butterfly. 

 Though its wings appeared frosted and stiff, we brought it indoors to have a closer look.  We were quickly able to identify it as a Mourning Cloak  (Nymphalis antiopa), a species that can convert glucose into antifreeze in order to survive the cold.  When its wings are closed, showing only the dark undersides, it’s also extremely well camouflaged in dark woods.

What is unsought will go undetected.
~ Sophocles

Too often, we only see what we expect to.  Adults usually don’t expect to see butterflies in winter.  But a five-year-old wouldn’t have such set expectations, so his eyes would not so easily dismiss the shape of delicate wings for dried leaves.  I wondered how many Mourning Cloaks I had missed seeing in the winter woods over the years.

Within minutes of being indoors, the butterfly was opening its wings.  Though it looked a bit ragged, it was still alive.     

The older we get, the better we learn how to manage expectations.  We don’t like to disappoint others and we especially don’t like to disappoint ourselves so we get into the habit of expecting less of everything around us.  Yet, surely there’s something to be lost in lowering expectations in order to avoid disappointment.  Besides butterflies in winter, what else might we be missing?

High expectations are the key to everything.
~  Sam Walton

Thank you to Joseph Belicek of Edmonton Alberta for identifying this butterfly’s subspecies as hyperborea.

Scott over at Views Infinitum is offering a macro photography challenge to all who are interested.  Deadline for submissions is March 23rd.  The close-up images shown above were made by using the macro mode on the Nikon Coolpix S8000.

 

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Winter is beginning to overstay its welcome. The barren landscape at this time of year in Nova Scotia can seem so void of life. However, with just a fistful of sunflower seeds, you can liven things up by attracting a variety of birds to your backyard.  You never know who’s going to fly in for a nibble.

Blue jay fluffing its feathers to stay warm

Blue jays, chickadees, finches, nuthatches and mourning doves are all potential visitors at this time of year.  Despite the February cold, I’ve often noticed several species of birds waiting nearby for their turn at the feeder.

Mourning dove patiently waits for its turn at the feeder

The black oil seeds are easier for birds to crack open than the thicker-shelled striped ones and provide more nutrition for their weight. All you need is a fistful. If you put out too much at a time, it may not be eaten and get moldy or attract rodents.  A fancy bird feeder isn’t necessary.  Just a flat surface that is easily cleaned is ideal.

Black oil sunflower seeds are also a favorite of red squirrels.  If you don’t want them to get the lion’s share,  you might want to put seeds out for the birds before mid-morning when the squirrels begin to make their rounds.

Finch eating sunflower seed

Some of the birds you attract to your feeder in late winter may decide to nest nearby come spring.  In the meantime, you never know who’ll show up to take advantage of your hospitality and add some color to your backyard landscape.

Ring-necked pheasant looking for breakfast

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The art gallery that is The Great Outdoors is featuring a show of hexagonal plate and stellar dentrite crystals by my favorite artist.  The contrast of fire and ice was especially stunning at sunrise this morning as the sun rose through snow covered trees in the woods, but there’s still time to take in the show.  

Though all snow crystals start out as specs of dust or salt that attract moisture, you’d never suspect such plain and simple origins by looking at the end result.  Like us, each snowflake is a unique work of art.  But besides being beautiful itself, snow has the marvelous ability to enhance the beauty of whatever it touches.  Like love, it is a covering for all imperfection.  

All nature is but art unknown to thee.

~  Alexander Pope

It’s easy for Canadians to take snow for granted.  Because we are a people forever on the move, we tend to only see it as something that will slow us down unless it’s removed from our roads and pathways.  We forget about its insulating properties and how it camouflages certain wild creatures so that they have a better chance of survival during the winter months…

But mostly we forget about how perfectly beautiful it is. 

We aren’t here to make things perfect.  The snowflakes are perfect.  The stars are perfect.  Not us.  Not us!
~  Ronny Cammareri  in Moonstruck

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