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Crystal Visions

Monday, February 26, 2018

February weather is all about whiplash. I know a lot of people hate it, but I really like February. When it comes to mind, I always think of woodcocks and spring peepers, swelling red maple buds and daffodils coming up. I'm not usually such an optimist, but knowing something about the massive changes nature effects in February definitely shortens the winter for a naturalist. 

It helps to live in southeast Ohio, say, and not the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. 

However. I want to get some ice up here before the weather turns warm for good. I know the cold and rotten weather will come back; the wood frogs and spring peepers know it too. I've gotten so caught up in the incredible typhoon of the last warm front, with frogs and woodcocks and killdeer and coy-wolves tuning up, that this February 8 ice storm seems like a distant memory. 

Ice storms are tough for birds. The broken tail of the middle dove attests to that. Worse, ice covers all their food. Birds have to get very creative to find enough food in ice storms. Many of them seem to think my yard is the best resort. They may be correct. 

The ice hung on the trees and grasses for three full days, the temperatures never rising above freezing. I watched the sun play peek-a-boo with thick clouds, and every time it peeked out I ran outside and took photos. 

Don't miss the starlings flying across the left hand path. Click on this one!

Even dead pokeweed looks awesome encased in ice.

I was in a kind of aesthetic panic. I knew that, once the sun came out, the ice would last a matter of an hour or two. 

As beautiful as the meadow was, I needed more sky, a bigger vista. I geared up and jumped in the car, driving about a mile. Speed was of the essence.  I had to get myself to a better place to appreciate all this splendor. 

The treetops were all a-glisten. 

When the sun finally peeked out, the big hayfield turned into a crystal expanse. (Click on this one).

Every blade was coated, but wouldn't be for long. 

I knew I wouldn't have much time to record the last gasp of all that ice. It had reigned for three days.

I ran over to the red barn and made its portrait with the broken beauty of the sky behind it. 

The sun was quickly melting the snow off its west-facing roof. The joyful sound of dripping water filled the air.

But I had another barn in mind. I trotted as fast as I could to a hilltop where I could see one of my favorite views. The light would be right. It would be amazing. I was so glad to be here, in this spot, for this light and ice event. These are the events that plan my days for me from time to time. I strive to live so as to be mindful of them, to be able to take advantage of them. They have nothing whatsoever to do with the world of people, politics, or finance. They have to do with light.

I had to get to the Toothless Lady. The light would be amazing.

The ice was still shining on the treetops. Good! I shot as I came up to the barn, but I knew I wanted to get up above it. I was hustling.

There. The trashy ailanthus tree that grew up beside her would never look more regal. I marveled, looking at this, at how much siding--how much wood! the barn has lost since I first started making portraits of her. 

Reduced and ragged as she is, I don't think she's ever been more beautiful.  I was gobsmacked by the blue sky showing through her bony back, by the collapse of her upper floor. She is deliquescing before my eyes. 

I left her and climbed higher. Oh my. I hadn't realized her roof was still covered with snow on the north side. 

This, this. This is what I came for. For the ragged clouds, the snow-covered roof, the black maw of the Toothless Lady, for the snowy road stretching off into the distance. That road that I walk, the distance I cover without even thinking about it. It's that distance, the miles I put on the chassis, that gives me peace of mind. And I get to look at this in the bargain. 

It's quite a deal. 

Higher and higher I climbed. 

Walking these Appalachian hills is a bit like flying. You can get so high above a scene, you're your own drone. 
I expect to always be my own drone. 

You might have to click on some of these to truly appreciate them. Go ahead and run through them all. I'll be here when you get back. 

Glistening sassafras tops. 

And looking into the sun? Dazzling, ravishing. I was a kid in a candy shop, with something beautiful at every turn.

As per usual, I took so durn many photos they wouldn't all fit in one post. This one, written on planes bearing me to the spectacular San Diego Birding Festival. And I've only just grabbed the time to edit and post it. Stay tuned. And thank you for seeing. 


So much to respond to...the beauty of your photos, the breathlessness of your wonder, and the challenge of your expression. You made this “old” English major look up deliquescing. Thank you. My brain needs all of that.

What beautiful pictures. Thank you for pointing out many delightful features, that phrase ‘delightful features’ seems so inadequate to capture ice and sunlight, barns, birds across the path, blue sky beaming through the roof of a barn. Thanks for rising early.

Those hills! That sky! All those old bank barns! I had to go to the big screen for the photos, much too beautiful for the small screen. Drone on!

I wallow in the beauty you share, cognizant that there are oil derricks and slaughtered woods that you COULD focus your mind and camera on – but choose not to. I try to do the same here; it is the only way forward.

You have a way to go but you can become a Crone Drone...

Julie, do you sell your photos? I am in love with these, but especially Toothless Lady Ice Nice.

I did click and they were beautiful!

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