Valentine’s Day With Snow

Feb. 14, 2019

Today, Valentine’s Day, is bright with new snow and abundant sunshine.  It’s a good day to be outdoors. It’s a good day to be in Maine.

Washed by fresh snowfall
even your pale rim looks pure,
Otherworldly sky.

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Increasing Light, Enduring Ice

February 10, 2019

The days are beginning to lengthen.  We have over ten hours of daylight now, and that gives a sense of coming spring.  While there is promise of new life and food ahead, those things are not here yet and it is a lean time for many of the animals.

Etched on planes of ice
tracks of raccoon, deer and fox—
Hunger diaries.

A raccoon, after washing at a pool of unfrozen water created by a sump pump, left muddy footprints on the icy snow crust.

A deer made its slow way up from the lake during a period of thaw.  The following day, its track was hardened ice.

Night Snow Storm

January 20, 2019

In terms of human life patterns, it is less disruptive to have a snow storm on the weekend rather than during the workweek, and at night rather than by day, particularly during the morning and evening commutes.  With that in mind, the timing of our first big snow storm of the season was in anthropocentric terms favorable indeed, arriving as it did last night on Saturday after dinnertime.

When the snow started to fly, the birds—chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and cardinals—had long since slipped away to where ever it is they roost…a pretty well-kept secret from what I can tell.  Given the recent spate of cold weather with heavy ice, it was little surprise that there was no sign either of other animals—from deer mice to coyotes—being out and about.  Even the trees seemed dormant, their lives contracted underground.

Night, all things asleep—
just ourselves to witness this
galaxy of snow.

Version 2

Rain on Snow, Snow on Rain, Icing in Between

January 9, 2019

It’s unsettling having a patch of tumultuous winter weather such as we have been experiencing for the past two days, with temperatures vacillating between freezing and thaw, and precipitation switching wildly between periods of rain, snow and freezing rain.  It is an uncomfortable reminder that we are living in the Anthropocene.  The winters have gotten warmer, with more thaw…and so more ice.

The current patch of weather is also simply difficult for us humans and many of our fellow living beings to be out in.

There were no fresh deer, fox, raccoon, or coyote tracks this morning.  The usually unseen subnivean tunnel work of the meadow voles had been exposed by the melting effect of the rain on the thin layer of snow cover.  Not surprisingly, there were no actual voles to be seen.  Exposure of their trails clearly represents a challenge for these voracious, year-round plant foragers.

 

vole trails

Not only the voles, even the trees seemed hard-pressed by the conditions.

Patient balsam boughs—
Learning water’s weight from drenched
lattices of snow.

balsams in wet snow

Brilliant New Year’s Day

January 1, 2019

Snow fell on New Year’s Eve night, followed by a round of what is cheerfully termed wintry mix.  We woke on the First to find all the trees, the pines and balsams especially, perilously burdened with heavy loads of snow and ice, and had to spend some time clearing a few downed branches from the drive.

But the air was warming quickly.  Within an hour the sun came out, the thermometer hit 40 degrees, and what can only be described as pure-white slush started to rain down from the trees.  The bracing smell of wet evergreens was everywhere.  In a Maine sort of way, it was a bright, clean start to the new year.

Droplets of snow melt—
Ten thousand times ten thousand
pure new worlds of light

Calm at Ko-tsugomori, the Second-to-Last Day

December 31, 2018

As the year draws to its close, Maine has been graced by a short spell of calm, sunny weather.  This means particularly peaceful winter sunsets.  This evening some clouds moved in before sundown and that shifted the mood a bit, but yesterday’s end on the second-to-last day of the year* was just about perfect.

Level rays of sun
burn the air above the pines—
below that, pure dusk.

*The second-to-last day is ko-tsugomori (or ko-misoka) in Japanese.  Its literal meaning is the second-to-last day in any lunar month (a time when the moon is hidden), but the word is most commonly used to indicate the second-to-last day in the old lunar calendar year.  In haikai tradition, ko-tsugomori marked the end of winter and the coming of spring, and–like ô-tsugomori—the final day —was considered a suitable topic for haiku.

Studying Solstice Light

December 20, 2018

We have been in the dip of the winter solstice for a while now.  This is the time in the cycle when the short days stop growing noticeably shorter, holding steady here in central Maine at a little under nine hours from sunrise to sunset.  It is the time when the sun rises each morning from its “solstice seat,” as far south on the horizon as it will go.  The winter solstice is experienced as a string of days rather than a particular moment on December 21.

Needless to say, at the season of the winter solstice, light—essential as it is to the existence of all living things—seems especially precious…beautiful and fleeting.

Even at twelve noon
shadows stretch across the snow–
Dark will fall by four.

          Blue scent of balsams.