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Snowmageddon Gallery

Monday, January 25, 2016

The present: that seductive, smooth-talking diversion, has impinged itself on me once again. 
We have had Snowmageddon in southeast Ohio, winged by the great winter storm Jonas as he waddled east, hunkered down over West Virginia and Virginia, and buried us all. We got a mere 18" to WV and northern VA's 3' or more. Still, it was a lot of snow for us.

It was beautifully powdery, and it fell right off the tree limbs to the forest floor, and no trees fell across lines, and nobody lost power. It was a New Year's miracle! And to Liam's delight he got Friday AND Monday off school!  

I have lived here in Appalachian Ohio since 1992 and have formed a rock-solid Pavlovian association with BIG SNOW and NO POWER FOR DAYS. So I looked at the weather map, saw the giant blue blob headed our way, and started cleaning the house. I figured I'd do all the things I couldn't do anymore when we lost power. Use the lights, the washer, dryer, dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, that kind of thing. It wasn't "if" we were going to lose power, it was just "when." And we never did lose power.
But I kept at it. Two full days it took me, which is pathetic, but I truly hate cleaning. This is a big house and I move very slowly because I find it all so stultifying. I used to clean once a week when the kids were small. I felt like I had to, but I still don't know how I did it. The difference between 40's and 50's, I guess. Now, I'd far rather write or paint or read or run, and nobody else seems to care, so why should I? But with decreasing frequency I still pull myself together to do it, even as I begrudge the time it takes. Time is my favorite thing, the most precious resource. 

It wasn't so bad, though, because as I cleaned I watched the snow piling up outside, and I felt enormously thankful to be safe and warm and snowed in with Liam. Just grateful to have such a nice roof over our heads, to have a house to clean at all.  We had plenty of food because my inner squirrel had been stockpiling for days before the storm hit. I'd laid in all the bird feed we could need, too, and the first day of the storm I made a quadruple batch of Zick Dough Improved, so we were good.

On the morning of January 24 I finally suited up and headed out to catch some hoarfrost atop the snow. Oh boy oh boy! 

That Japanese maple, once a potted bonsai, is becoming a major landscape force. Big enough to sit under, big enough to walk under, big enough to have chipping sparrows and cardinals nest in it. Ahh. Such a good tree. 

Still feeling appreciative, I walked around to see the once-tiny birds-nest blue spruce I moved from Maryland to Ohio in 1992. Oh my. 

And better yet, two very small crape myrtles in the foreground, come up from seed or root, I know not which, from a beautiful shrub that was killed in the horrid winter of 2013. They came up out of nowhere after two years without a sign of life from the shrub's stump. And bloomed this past summer of 2015. And were true to the original, a rich magenta. HOORAY! May they make it through this winter.

A deer, looking for birdseed. Those thin legs move pretty well through snow. I'd have thought they'd yard up in this much snow, but the meadow was laced with their tracks. I think the fact that the snow was so powdery encouraged them to move about. It's crusty snow deer hate, punching through it with their hooves, the crust cutting their legs.

I purely hated to walk on that clean white sheet in the meadow, but I had to, if I was going to get any photos.

Looking at the junco and sparrow tracks, it suddenly hit me that deep snow actually helps them forage.

For instead of the seedheads being high above their heads, forcing them to jump and flutter, the seeds are right at their level. The birds are 18 inches higher on the surface of that snow, and can simply hop from seed cluster to seed cluster. Beautiful! I loved that revelation, that thought that juncos actually like a deep snow. That it makes finding food easier for them. No wonder we call them snowbirds.

So busy, the tracks of their industry everywhere in the meadow. 

The bluebird box with its baffle was steaming in the sun as the hoarfrost burned off.  It looked eerily like a man with a derby on, breathing. I tried to capture the misty exhalation with two cameras and couldn't. But oh, it was cool. 

I like this shot, for the elements it shows--housing for birds and for us, a baffle to protect against snakes and raccoons; a Virginia pine left just because it was beautiful; my meandering path. At this point I'm tired. Slogging through knee-high snow is work!

Under the same pretty pine. Yes, red is the right color for that house. And I can pretend it's an old barn. Especially when I don't feel like cleaning. Har.

At this point, I'm sufficiently snowblind that I can barely tell what I'm shooting. Which makes for some interesting pictures.

The lacework and tracery of frost and grass and stem and shadow has me in its thrall. 

I turn the camera toward myself and the sun. I can't even see it, the sun is so bright. I'm all warmed up, and have been shedding clothes all the way out the path. No hat, no gloves needed when you're wading through deep snow. A mile walked this way is probably worth three on pavement, from a cardiac standpoint.

No Bacon chaser with me. He wouldn't be caught dead in 18" of snow.

My photos get odder and odder. I can't see what I'm doing very well, but I'm fascinated by the light, and I keep facing into it, like a moth.

This could be another planet...

A junco's snowball, growing a crust of hoarfrost.

Probably time to head toward the house. And when I turn my back to the sun, the blue sky and shadows jump out at me. Oh my! what I've been missing!

And when I got home, Chet Baker, who does not gladly suffer deep snow, came out to run the rat maze I had shoveled him all over the yard. I made little alleys to his favorite spots--the compost pit, the spruces, the feeders, the greenhouse.  I made sure they all connected, and all led to the front door. He came out of the woods so proud of himself, and considerably lighter. It had been a day and a half. It was time.

O noble doggeh o' mine!


You made me smile again: "I can pretend it's an old barn. Especially when I don't feel like cleaning. Har." All of it, especially the "Har." But what is a "junco's snowball," please? Thanks for another good one.

Thanks for sharing your storm with us. Magical indeed. Our snow totals surpassed yours but the magic was the same.
Your cleaning has inspired a blog in me...must go write.

There's just something I love about the frozen skeletons of autumn flowers. Winter is so inspirational!

"Time is my favorite thing, the most precious resource." Amen. My thoughts exactly.

What memories this brings back to me. Growing up in Michigan, my sister and I spent many days playing in the snow under bare tree branches. Lots of birdie tracks everywhere. And that glistening snow. Special times. Thanks for sharing. Miss this here in Georgia.

Posted by Pat Kinser January 27, 2016 at 6:26 AM

Dazzling - all of it. Thanks for the walk in the sunny snow. A treat on the 'big screen' today before I shut down and spend the evening with just the phone. I'd never thought about juncos using the snow to forage but makes total sense. I love watching them and seeing their busy little tracks too.

Beautiful from beginning to end! And love the maze you've made for Chet.

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