A Winter’s Walk

DSC_0081

We had a good amount of snow during the last half of December, a couple of inches or so falling every day to keep the landscape, including roads and walks, covered with a fresh, light blanket. One morning I grabbed my camera to record the snow on my front garden… after putting on long underwear under my cords, a sweatshirt over my long-sleeved tee, a fiber-filled jacket, scarf, hat & hood, light gloves, and my warmest shoes. Sigh.

The mid-morning sun was hanging low in the south-east sky casting very long navy shadows over the diamond-dust-studded snow. It was so cold —- so cold it was hard to feel any warmth from the sun on my face as I closed my eyes and faced it head-on. My nose is always the first get cold, just before my entire exposed face feels the bite. This was a still day without even a whiff of moving air so the extreme cold didn’t feel as threatening,  as dangerous.

DSC_0106

A deer run into the vacant lot across the street from our home.

I decided to start down the drive towards the snow-covered road, mindful that walking on snow in a 73 year old body is dangerous. For stability I used that unique walk that is used, that is learned early in life, when walking on slippery surfaces. It took my total focus as I gingerly made my way down the declining slope of our drive, my senses only focused on my orientation to the ground and the sound of my steps as they crunched the lightly layered flakes of snow. When I stopped at the bottom to congratulate myself on my progress (it really is a relatively short distance) I took time to listen hard. I listened to the hushed silence that comes with cold and snow, only to hear the occasional muted sounds of tires squeaking over snow-packed roads.

DSC_0118

The extreme cold results in a dry snow, the type of snow that is loosely bound together. Not a good snow for making snowmen or snowballs – for building snow walls to crouch behind in a serious snowball fight. On this day I was happy to experience these through my memories, but I felt the excited pull to do a little walking in the neighborhood. I don’t think the neighbor’s carved bear climbing the trunk of an old oak tree shared my excitement with the snow.

DSC_0126

I didn’t walk far as I felt the cold seep through my clothes, making the muscles around my titanium knees stiffen, but what joy I experienced as I viewed the unique sites of the winter landscape.

I have lived through winters for so many years so my excitement surprises me when diamond dust starts floating in the air. I stand silent and watch, alone in the silence. My attempt to capture a digital image is fruitless… maybe there are some things that we need to enjoy in the moment without trying to make them ours.

Winter is a wonderful place to visit – but be sure to bring lots of layers of clothes. I’ll furnish the hot chocolate.
Or you can visit vicariously.

Texture

DSC_0113-3

Textures: Brought to you by Nature and a “Down Dirt Roads” photographer.

In response to The Daily Post prompt for photographers.

 

A Vernal Morning in Michigan

Friend Julie and I did our “Down Dirt Roads” photo excursion last Monday, but went down the paved paths of the Hidden Lake Garden in southern Michigan. This large expanse of land is own and maintained by Michigan State University as part of their Land Grant College mission. They do a wonder job of maintaining the natural landscape of the woods while also having landscaped areas like the conifer gardens and the hosta and wildflower garden.

The hosta garden is the first stop on the one-way driving path and we were excited to see trillium growing in the woods. We made our way, with cautious steps, through last year’s leaves and fallen limbs. Walking on uneven terrain, up and down hills, feels more precarious every year – but the reward still seems greater than the risk. There was a large trunk of a fallen tree that we needed to get over to get the best shots of the trillium and I couldn’t resist sitting for a while. I love the calming stillness of the early spring woods – the birds singing while the sun warms me. It was cold on this morning, cold enough for gloves to be welcome.

DSC_0038

I found I was in a gentle, delicate mood and was drawn to photographic images that reflected my mood. Or maybe my mood was in response to this early spring environment. I kept thinking about how delicate and fragile early spring can seem in the northern United States. In a very real sense it is delicate, and fragile, because a couple of nice days doesn’t predict a smooth unfolding of the season. We can get a freeze that destroys the blossoms on fruit trees. When I left the house on this middle of May morning there was still frost on the lawn where the sun hadn’t yet reached.

After quietly and intently photographing the wildflowers growing among the hosta we drove around the end of the hidden lake where the view was at lake level. It’s a hidden lake because it is surrounded by high hills.

DSC_0066

On both of our first spring excursions, Julie and I frequently spoke about the multitude of greens and golds of the emerging leaves on the previously dormant deciduous trees. There is such a stark difference once the bare, almost sinister-looking trees start to leaf out. And of course we marveled and took lots of photos trying to capture the graceful beauty of the dogwoods and redbuds blooming along the edges of the woods.

Our next stop was on the stretch of road that goes up and around the west side of the lake. I like stopping here on the road and on this day it wasn’t a problem because there weren’t many people or vehicles. I like stopping here because there is a tall stone retaining wall that allows a different perspective of the wildflowers and trees that grow above.

I stopped using my tripod because there was a breeze gently tossing the more delicate blooms. I figured that if I took enough shots, the moving flowers, my less than steady hands, and the vibration reduction of the lens would all come together for me – and sometimes it almost did.

We continued around the trails, stopping frequently and not wanting to hurry. We have driven this trail before so we know where there may be daffodils and other flowers growing wild. It was a perfect spring day and we wanted it to last forever. We lingered at every stop. It was so beautiful that I even forgot that we had decided to visit a quilt shop in the small town down the state highway before we headed home.

Our last stop was at the arboretum but that will be another post. I hope that you are also able to find some gentleness in this season – or if you are from down under you find it in your transition from hot weather to cold. (What a strange way of saying “from the southern hemisphere.” Do you say that we in the northern hemisphere are from “up over?”)

My photo outing this week fits perfectly with Paula’s Thursday’s Special: Vernal. You need to check out her beautiful photograph and what others are linking to her post.