And Now It’s Winter

Snowflowers

One morning, just two weeks ago, there were snow-flowers all over my yard, clinging to the trees and shrubs and scattering over the ground. These were soft, fluffy clusters of snowflakes that sparkled in the sun, their glitter the only hint that they were snow and not some gift of cotton from the sky.

Now these fluffy bits have all disappeared, gobbled up by the real snow that will stay for the winter. It is not as playful. There is a hard edge to it that says, “I mean business!” Its relationship with the sun is stronger, more of a partnership. The snow rejects the sun with vigour, not succumbing to the bright rays, but tossing them back to the sky with an arrogance born of the knowledge that it is now the stronger of the two.

But, oh . . .both are beautiful.  And I am so glad to see the snow, to feel that hard edge of winter bite into the daylight, to see the brilliance of the weakened sun as it reflects off the snow. Now the trees loom larger against the sky as they sleep the deep sleep of dormancy, their idle limbs rimed with snow.

Under the snow, near the ground, small caverns are opening up. Crystals form and gather as they slightly melt from the heat of the earth, leaving little tunnels behind where small animals scurry about in the half twilight looking for food. Overwintering insects lie curled up in leaves and under debris here; juicy stems and half frozen leaves provide winter forage.

It is quite warm under the snow, hovering around or just above 0 degrees Centigrade as long as there is a decent covering of insulating snow —  a foot or more keeps the temperature constant. Voles and mice and shrews find it quite liveable. They create air holes to let in oxygen and let out carbon dioxide. You can find the holes – they are about finger size – and foxes, owls and coyotes can too. They use the holes to hunt for winter food. Ermine and weasels will dive right in and chase the voles in their own tunnels. Larger mammals will wait to detect sound or movement, and then quickly make their strike.

The Inuit call this snow layer the pukak. It can extend up about 10 cm or four inches above the ground. It won’t form in well-mown, debris-deprived lawns. Nor does pukak do well in moist climates such as that of Newfoundland, but here in Manitoba, in a perfect winter, in years where snow falls thick and fast and stays until spring, the pukak teems with life.

The skies come alive now, too, the clouds showing pink and rose in the morning and evening light. When the daytime sun shines, it takes on a curious, pale lemon glow that paints the air with well being. The quality of sound is affected and a crystal silence falls on a winter’s day. At night the silence seems deeper, as if we could hear beyond the shelter of earth’s atmosphere into the universe itself.

 

 

Nov. 27, 2011

 

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16 thoughts on “And Now It’s Winter

  1. Norma Chang says:

    Love your winter scenes. So quiet and peaceful and yes, beautiful. Currently no snow in the Hudson Valley, the 12 inches we got in October disappeared quite some time ago. Hoping for a white Christmas.

  2. victoriaaphotography says:

    Looks lovely on your side of the world in that velvety soft light – wish we had a white Christmas here in Melbourne, Aust. (instead of the hot humid days), but as our weather pattern changes, we get more & more rain over December as the years go by.

    I suspect that one day we might even see snow, but perhaps not in my lifetime.

    • When we reach February, I’ll be thinking of your hot days with some longing. But it is lovely. I am waiting for the dun dogs to appear to show everyone. They are so beautiful on either side of the sun on the coldest days.

  3. Kevin says:

    Snow flowers. What a lovely phrase! I’m going to borrow that all winter long! Beautiful photos and words!

  4. This post is pure, snowy poetry. I miss the snow. I love it too. We hoped to get stationed in Groton, CT but ended up in southern GA. (Sigh.) I particularly enjoyed the photo of the cat paw prints in the snow. Pukak and the fact that it allows such life and activity is truly an amazing miracle of nature. 🙂
    Thanks for the wonderful reminder. 🙂

  5. You have a stunningly beautiful winter garden. That is no small feat. Great post informative, well-written and just simply lovely.

  6. Teh pukak is amazing. I have just finished a “10 Neat Things” E-letter about ladybugs and I would think that they would be denizens of the pukak, sleeping thorugh the long winter under the leaf little in the garden.

  7. This post made for an interesting read–thank you! Compared to what you have, I can hardly call what we have around our place “Winter,” but for us reaching freezing temperatures at night is a big deal! But with the colder weather has come some sunshine, for which we are grateful.

  8. cindydyer says:

    You are truly a gifted writer! Your post actually made me appreciate winter more than I usually do. Now THAT’s a gift since I’m not a huge fan of winter. 😉

  9. Hello: I have been reading your blog and I am impressed by it’s content. I like the way you inform the reader but entertain at the same time with your words and I think your photos are lovely. That is why I have nominated you for The Liebster Blog Award.

    This award is given to blogs with less than 200 followers who deserve a little recognition. There are a few simple rules that go along with the award:

    They are as follows as passed on to me:

    1. Give a shout out to the blogger who nominated you by linking back to their blog.
    2. Nominate 5 other blogs with less than 200 followers.
    3. Spread the good blog karma

    Lastly, don’t forget to add the Liebster blog image to your post.
    Best Wishes.

  10. Granny says:

    Wow! You just painted a picture of your winter with words that reveal every detail of color, texture, radiance and life. From one corner of yard, you capture a moment and though your description stops time for a while, long enough to observe with great detail, yet we sense that time slips along, but so beautifully. This was a pleasure to read. It sounds like you absolutely love and most certainly appreciate, your surroundings.

  11. […] begin this review in a snow-covered garden. In And Now It’s Winter, The Gardening Canuck paints a picture of her winter with words that reveal every detail of color, […]

  12. Granny, at a certain age, we are given the luxury of seeing again what we saw as children: the wonderful world around us. It’s a lovely gift.

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