Unseasonable and Unreasonable

Yes, it’s word play, but seriously, the unseasonably cold weather here in the Pacific northwest seems thoroughly unreasonable, to me at least. (We could talk about the futility of pairing reason with weather, but that would be another conversation). Seattle’s airport, Sea-Tac, marked its snowiest February on record before we were even half way through the month. The airport might get its coldest February on record, too. We’ve been locked into a nasty pattern of snow and cold for most of the month now, with more snow possible this week.

Winter weather in this part of the world normally consists of a tedious parade of gray days with plenty of drizzly rain and temperatures hovering around the mid 40’s F (7 C). We don’t have a lot of below-freezing days, and when it snows, it usually melts away in a day or two. Usually. But “usually” is just a memory, now that we’re stuck in this unreasonably unseasonable February.

Combine at least six inches of snow on barely plowed roads, temperatures consistently at or below freezing, and a declared state of emergency and you’ve got the perfect storm of difficult winter weather for our area. Then there were the cancelled flights, schools closed for days, impassable highways…we just don’t do snow that well. In these conditions a lovely walk outdoors has become a rare treat. I hadn’t realized until now that I’ve become spoiled by the region’s normally mild weather and the easy access to extraordinary natural habitats.

Of course, what we’re experiencing is nothing compared to many places in the US, Canada, and other places where snow is serious business and cold lasts all winter long.  When I lived in New York I was used to shoveling out my car and slipping and sliding down the sidewalks. Since moving here though, I’ve acclimated to a different reality and I’m just not used to real winter anymore. Imagine my distress when for a week, my go-to coffee shop either didn’t open at all or closed early. During the worst of it, when Seattle suffered through its “Snopocalypse” I had my own crisis, i.e. “OMG where am I going to get my espresso?”

Lest I sound unreasonable, I don’t expect any sympathy, especially from my hardy friends in colder places. This is actually more about a sense of wonder that our blue, spinning earth continues to bring us so many surprises. May it always be so, and may nature always have the upper hand.

***

It all began innocently enough with a light, rather picturesque coating of snow on the third of February.  At home, perfect little bird tracks in the snow and tiny ice balls in the nets protecting the fruit trees were a delightful novelty. The roads weren’t bad that day. Even the dirt road to Cranberry Lake was navigable, so I set out on a cold, careful walk in the woods. The forest was enchanting that afternoon, but my fingers got numb very quickly. I was grateful I had a warm home to return to.

 

1. A dusting of snow at Cranberry Lake.

 

2. Sword fern plants bowed down under coats of mealy-looking, icy snow in a dark corner of the woods.

 

3. The birds were busy, leaving a maze of tracks in the thin layer of snow under the feeders. I singled out one little hop for a black and white.

 

4. An enclosure to protect young fruit trees against deer was dotted with balls of ice.

 

The next day it was bitter cold and the roads were icy. I took pictures indoors, photographed a deer through the window, and caught up on things at home.

 

 

 

Soon the roads improved and the sun came out, but it was still very cold. I drove to a local park one day, hoping the road around it was passable. The boat dock sustained storm damage but – Yes! – the road was open. I drove happily through the woods at the proscribed 10 mph speed limit, stopping to photograph a twisted Maritime juniper tree. After 20 minutes in the cold I retreated back to the parking lot. Hearing the vibration of blasting music coming from a car, I muttered curses under my breath. Then I saw two young women sitting in their car, watching the sunset, and they seemed to be having a great time. Suddenly I realized the music was from the Bach Cello Suites! My frown turned to a smile. What prompted them to choose Bach instead of a hit from this week’s Top 100? I don’t know, and maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised by their choice. I gave them a thumbs up and a big smile. What a nice send-off to that icy-cold day.

 

6. Looking up into the dead branches of a Maritime juniper tree. Imagine standing under this noble tree while listening to a Bach Cello Suite.

 

7. The svelte mid-section of another maritime juniper tree.

 

8. As the sun set that day it left an orange glow behind the Olympic Mountains, 60 miles away.

 

A few days later there was another round of snow, this time in the form of big, wet flakes falling softly overnight, leaving clumps of the cottony stuff everywhere. It was still snowing that morning but I set out for the coffee shop anyway, creeping along on clean white roads. Hardly anyone was out. After getting coffee I drove around March Point and tried to photograph the snow falling but there was little light to work with, and once again my fingers numbed in minutes. Back at home, I noticed our little creek was an important source of fresh water for puffy little Dark-eyed Junco’s that were endlessly flitting back and forth between feeder and stream.

 

9. This little creek is dry as a bone in summer.

 

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10. Cattails wore top hats of snow over their fluffy seed heads on March Point.

 

11. Leaning stakes probably mark old shipping lanes at March Point, where oil refineries share space with herds of cattle and a Great blue heron rookery.

 

12. The snow thickened over Fidalgo Bay, smudging the horizon.

 

Three days later, more snow fell….is this getting repetitive? You bet it is! I prowled around the yard again….

 

13. A Sword fern seems to shrivel and shiver in the cold. These hardy, evergreen ferns should be OK except for clumps damaged by the weight of wet snow. I believe those clumps will gradually recoup as new fronds emerge to replace the ones that broke under the snow.

 

14. How long before these petite clumps of snow fall to the ground?

 

After that  snowstorm, another bout of cabin fever hit me so I made my way to Deception Pass State Park at a snail’s pace. The parking lot hadn’t been plowed but since it’s on a busy inter-island thoroughfare (and maybe because there are restrooms there), vehicles had been driving into the lot, leaving deep tracks in the slushy snow. I steered my little car along the tracks, stopped, and got out. The staircase under the bridge had been trampled just enough – I could walk down the stairs while clutching the railing (and feeling thankful for waterproof boots). Under the bridge is a network of trails that traces the forested edges of Deception Pass. Only a dusting of snow had filtered down through the thick canopy of trees there. The path was easy to follow but it was dark and cold in the woods. Again, I didn’t last long but just being in the woods, gratefully breathing fresh air, was a treat. A tiny mouse raced past me, oblivious to my presence. He pawed at the snow, searching for food, and then ran off into the dark woods. I thought about my warm home….

 

15. The forest is dark on a perimeter trail at Deception Pass State Park.

 

16. Last year’s Ocean Spray flower (Holodiscus discolor) drips with melting ice and snow.

 

17. The water racing through the pass that day was a cheerful turquoise color, and the view through the tall trees across to Pass Island was delightful.

 

18. The leathery, evergreen leaves of Salal (Gaultheria shallon) cheer up the forest floor in winter. The orange leaves are dead Redcedar leaves from the drought we had last summer. All the snow we’re getting now will help prevent drought in the months ahead.

 

19. The mouse. I enlarged and lightened the photo as much as I could, and it’s still hard to see him…that mouse was tiny!

 

Steps away from the parking lot is the Deception Pass bridge, which has a pedestrian walkway. It’s usually a spectacular view from the bridge, high over the rushing water, but on that day the view was reduced by moisture still hanging in the air. Far out on the water I could barely make out some cormorants, gulls, a few seals, and one sea lion – all working hard for their living.

 

20. Snow on the rocks below the bridge at Deception Pass.

 

21. North Beach from the Deception Pass bridge. No one walks the beach on this snowy day.

 

22. A phone photo taken on the road home that day.

 

One day I ventured off the island to Mount Vernon, a small city with a good food cooperative where I like to shop. On the way I passed acres of fallow, snowy fields. The sun is bright out on Skagit Flats. The orderly rows of crops with their striped furrows converging on the horizon was pleasing to see.

 

23. A bus for migrant workers sits in the field, waiting for Spring. It looks like this is one of Skagit Valley’s famous tulip fields – you can see them coming up. The snow won’t bother them a bit.

 

24. Afternoon sun throws a maze of shadows on a farm building.

 

The snow has melted a little now, but it’s still below freezing at night and not much above freezing during the day. Friday I took a walk at Bowman Bay, part of Deception Pass State Park.  I lingered on the trail until sunset. The tide was out and a lone Great blue heron was busy foraging in the quietly lapping waves. The sun felt good.

 

25. A Great blue heron picks its way through the riches of low tide.

 

***


82 comments

  1. I have to confess I was sucked into looking at the larger images and commenting on them individually (that does make it easier without explaining which one I refer to) and it’ll generally be the visual that draws me in. Then I came back to enjoy your tale of woe about the snow and the cold. 😀 Honestly, you have my sympathy, but it’s good to see your outings and what you came back to. The day indoors was a delight in a different way. All thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated. (by both of us! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Weather has been strange here also. Many are having to define “new normals” for where they live, except that has been hard with so much variability, the only normal is highly variable! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely collection of photographs from the inclement weather. I assumed that your weather had returned to a more normal cool and damp…sorry to hear that it seems stuck in ice and snow. I had a blog for several years that is now closed; every February I would write a post puzzling over how February could be the longest month when it has the smallest number of days. Wishing you a speedy return to normal weather…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you…but I’m aware this is nothing compared to what you deal with, which you put so well in that former blog. But March can seem that way, or used to. The cruelest month, right? Maybe not so much here. Spring will be sweet, whenever it comes!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We somehow escaped all the snow you folks have had, we’ve had but a little and the main storm ended up turning to rain. It’s good you’ve been able to get out. Ice is often a bigger problem than snow, I assume it’s been manageable? In any case, your escape from cabin fever has provided us with another lovely perspective on winter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You did, didn’t you? But you got a lot of rain, which isn’t fun either. Still, we needed the precip to counteract the summer drought, so hopefully it will help us later. Ice has not been a problem right here, thankfully.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It hardly feels right to complain about snow when it inspires us so much to get in the thick of things and make photos! ‘m a newcomer to your site and thoroughly enjoyed this post. For a gal born in upstate NY and gratefully residing now in the gentler climes of NC mountains, I can appreciate everything you shared. Especially overhearing Bach Cello Suites from a car of young admirers. Ahhh..the details of it all.

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    • How nice to hear from you….I grew up mostly around Syracuse and lived for a year or so near Brevard, NC (where snow was even more problematic than it is here). Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

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  6. Yes, it seems things have gone a bit nuts this February in the NW. I agree it’s good for us to get shaken up by nature from time to time and remember we’re but one part of it all. It’s snowing lightly again here today, and we’ve been promised up to 8 inches in the next couple days. Rain is to follow this time, so hopefully it won’t snow us in this time. The beauty of the snow and the birds in the yard were a treat for a few days. But seven days stuck at the house was quite enough, and I’m enjoying my large desk and double monitor at work today. I still have to park at the far end of the block since all the rest of the spaces are filled with deep snow and ice chunks from the plows. The City of North Bend has assured us they realize parking for businesses is impaired and are ‘working on it.’ At least King County sent a plow down our street eventually, for the first time in memory. It was fabulous to be set free!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re getting the worst of it, I think. As you can see, I don’t do well if I can’t get out and I went out even on the worst days, which obviously weren’t as bad as where you are. Plowing budgets just aren’t a priority around here, and one can understand why, since it’s so rare that we need the plows, but I think you’ve had quite enough!

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  7. All wonderful images. I don’t think I could even begin to pick a fave. I do have to say thought that I really dislike the cold and every winter I tell myself that I am going to go out in it to shoot. But somehow that rarely happens. And I don’t think it is at all unreasonable to worry where your coffee is going to come from. I’m a coffee lover as well so I totally get it (as a matter of fact I buy mine from beanbox which sells only coffees roasted in Seattle!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 That’s funny about the coffee. I dislike the cold more and more as I get older, then moving here, where it usually not very cold, I’ve become soft. I’ll tell you though, put on lots and lots of layers and get out even for 20 minutes, and it just feels SO good, like “back in the saddle again.” 🙂

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  8. What a fantastic gallery chronicling winter, Lynn. Over here in the UK our weather has swung the other way. The temperatures have been unseasonably warm. Crocuses and daffodils are in bloom, some shrubs are starting to turn green. By the weekend we are praised 16 degrees centigrade. Daft for mid march. There will be a sting in the tail, there always is. meantime I got away to cold weather properly in the Alps. It was -18C one morning but beautiful blue sky days and some fantastic skiing. Just starting to get some images up – I have been absent for long spells recently

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paula (above) mentioned your Spring-like weather. I saw you have an Alps post and I confess I gave a little shudder. 😉 Seriously, I will be brave and look soon. That’s a whole different animal, where you were. I’m glad you’re able to go there and enjoy the skiing, as well as the photography. It sounds wonderful.

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  9. Viewing this in a northern state, coals to Newcastle, but really enjoying your snowy post. But I will say, here in the white-and-gray zone, the rich tangerine and blues in #8, are especially welcome. And I really enjoy the different layers of contours and silhouettes in that shot, too. #11 I first glanced at on my phone, and thought there were tuning forks, or wooden clothespins, sticking up, and just figured, yeah, it’s the Pacific Northwest, they do stuff like that. But I like the picture a lot, now that I can see it on a goodsize screen.
    #2 reminds me a bit of decorations my grandmother would make for cupcakes, by preserving flower petals in granulated sugar.
    #6 makes you wonder where the line is drawn, that separates something graceful from awkward – – the dead juniper branches are stiff and weathered,and yet still pleasing, and despite their near-angularity, somehow leave an impression of sinuousness. It would be a good album cover for that band “Dead Can Dance.” Thank you, enjoyed this post, and that mouse is pretty cute!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know Robert, it’s silly, complaining about this smidgen of snow when you all get buried. Same with other bloggers I thought of – maybe you know them – Hedy (sloppybuddhist) in Edmonton, Denise Bush in Colorado – all braving far colder and snowier weather than we’ll ever have here. But it’s all relative isn’t it? The day of the brilliant sunset was pure happiness, though it was very cold in that windy spot. We always have lots of green, no matter what, so we don’t get that white and gray tediousness. #11 – yes, just wooden kitchen spoons, let’s not have too much PNW weirdness. 🙂
      I always enjoy your associations…haven’t thought of “Dead can Dance” in ages – love that idea! Another example of the same kind of awkward beauty (to me) is the types of poses that Great blue herons often get into. There’s intense energy in those sinewy angularities….Thank YOU Robert, stay warm!

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  10. Another lovely set of images – thanks for sharing the snow stories! And oh how familiar the feeling of “not being used to real winter anymore” is! 🙂 Except that here in San Diego, we’re completely spoiled rotten, of course. The cold spell is particularly irritating to “snow birds” – the part-time desert dwellers who come here in winter. A friend who lives out there told me they were freezing in Borrego Springs the other day, standing in 40-something F with their shorts and t-shirts because “this is not how it’s supposed to be!” 😉 Just like you, I am grateful for these surprises in the weather!

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    • You must have had a bigger adjustment, going from Germany to SoCal. They are called Snow birds on the east coast too – people who winter in Florida, same idea. And here’s another funny thing – we were shocked when we moved here from NY and saw many people outdoors in shorts & T shirts – even flip flops – on the coldest days of winter. They are tough up here!! No umbrellas for the rain either – everyone uses hoods or beanies or they just ignore the drizzle. Funny, the cultural differences. Like weather changes, I’m grateful for those surprises too, as I bet you are. Thanks Alex.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sorry to hear about you cold spell, here we’re having the exact opposite – record high temperatures! But love these pix; 6 really gets to me; but others I really like are (deep breath!) 2, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 22, 23, 25!!! A 🙂

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  12. Photos 1, 4 and 22 are my favourites this time. Beautiful photographs. I love your attention to detail. Thanks for the lovely wander through a wintry PNW. I missed snow everywhere this winter – in Vancouver and Montreal. We were in Montreal for 2 weeks in December and then left Vancouver Feb 4th for Paris and now Rishikesh. I had been wanting to take some snowy pictures, but reading your chilly tale I must say I’m not sorry to have missed it.
    Alison

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    • The fact that you and someone else singled out #22 just goes to show that it’s always worth snapping those random phone photos. 🙂 You’re on the road again….I bet you’re having a great time. I’m impressed that you can follow and comment on any blogs while traveling that extensively.
      Yes, I think it’s fine that you missed this round. It has gotten very tedious! Safe travels Alison!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. You certainly seem to have had a rough time. I saw a picture on the News the other day of snow in Hawaii! In contrast, here in Central UK, we have had the mildest winter I can recall with little snow or frost Strong winds have sometimes caused problems. Of course, there is still time for things to change!
    As ever, your pictures capture the sights and atmosphere quite beautifully

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    • Well, I shouldn’t complain because as I said, it’s nothing compared to so many other places. But it’s all relative, isn’t it, and the point is, it surprised me. We actually had a very mild January, and maybe that contributed to the surprise factor! Hopefully when your weather gets cooler it won’t be too extreme. We don’t want those flowers to be damaged….
      Thanks Louis!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. We’re completely sympathetic to your espresso concerns! 😉

    I find the frozen droplets of #4 and the shadows vs. lines of #24 beautiful. I’m not a fan of the cold, but I do love winter photos. As long as I’m enjoying them from under a blanket with a warm mug of coffee not too far away!

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  15. It’s seems like I got out of the Snopocalypse just in time. I flew out of Seatac on the morning the snow was coming down hard and was worried about whether or not I would make it, first to the airport and then out of the airport. Got delayed but not more than an alternative route caught up with. In a way I thought it was a pity to miss out on the snow. I would have loved to enjoy the winter. Just look at the amazing photos you were able to capture. 🙂

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    • Good thing you made it out just in time. The annoying thing is the length of time this cold spell has lasted, along with repeated snowfalls. It’s beautiful, I agree, but the people who lost power may not have thought so! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, Ken. I like the minimalist look very much, but it can be hard to find such pared-down scenes outdoors. Winter can be good for that look though. I hope your winter hasn’t been too bad.

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  16. It’s all relative, Lynn. Of course, having lived in the northeast you are aware of serious winter storms, but that doesn’t matter in your current climate. It’s cold and snowy and grey and not as much fun as it might be. Kind of like the old Excedrin commercial.
    I always admire your collections. You see things that would not attract my attention although they should and present them as lovely snippets of your walks. I really enjoyed the Sword Fern image and of course the Great Blue Heron as well. The sunset and little creek also and when I saw the svelte tree trunk I immediately thought of a navel. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s true, it’s all relative. I see Jane, in a comment below, also noticed losing her northeast winter toughness. 🙂
      Thank you for your thoughts….I’ve always liked details, as well as the big picture, and have always enjoyed finding things others might not see, so that skill has probably been honed for a while. 😉 I was worried the sword fern image was too dark – there I go with worrying about “too dark” again. As for the navel, I just didn’t want to mention the obvious! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Thoroughly enjoying your wintery images, Lynn, and smiling at your snowy lament. A wonderful array of shots…the great thing about your photos is I am compelled to look again…your fence and ice balls, the gorgeous Olympic mountain landscape, your wooden spoons, the svelte midsection made me smile and the details you find in nature are always a visual treat. It’s amazing how quickly we lose northeast winter toughness once we move west! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you’re compelled to look at anything I make again, in this fastfast world of Instagram images and Twitter messages, then I am very happy! I keep forgetting you’re an easterner too, I guess because I’ve only “known” you as a San Franciscan and you seem so thoroughly entrenched there, in a good way. It took me only two winters to get acclimated. It seems slow in a way, but also fast. We are a pretty adaptable species, aren’t we? Have a good weekend Jane!

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  18. Pretty memories of the cold spell :-). I love the cattails in top hats! So fancy. And “OMG where am I going to get my espresso!”. Lol!!! I like my favourite coffee shops a lot too. The light in the indoor photos is so warm… and the wooden utensils… what a cool close-up! Snow is cold but it does change the landscape in so many interesting ways.

    I’m so, so glad the cold spell is over here. I mostly avoided going outside when it was colder than -25 degrees Celcius. -10 feels comfortable here now. It is seasonally reasonable. But -10 is way too cold in the Pacific Northwest. Partly because it is more humid than Alberta and partly because it is seasonally unreasonable! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel like you understand totally, like you’re on my team. 🙂 You’re right, the changes snow makes to the landscape and the light are wonderful to see, just maybe not so nice to feel. -10 is just wrong. It’s a little better now but still well below normal – it has been all month! But I will stop complaining…it was fun while it lasted. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • We should have temperatures around 50F but it’s been much colder all month. There are buds for sure, and the occasional crocus, but things are delayed, I think, from the unusual amount of snow we had, and the cold pattern we’re stuck in. But you know, the light is very different! I’m sorry you have another month of “mega-winter” ( love that ) but at least the sun is there sometimes….like you said….brighter….

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  19. It is always such a pleasure and an educational experience looking at your photos, each one highlighting a particular aspect of the scenery or the object you were photographing. By the way, I make my own coffee and only once in a while do I stop by a store where they have $1 coffee, any size. 🙂

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    • Thank you Hien. Your comment about coffee has me smiling. I go back and forth about making coffee at home. I much prefer espresso to brewed coffee. It’s a lot of trouble for just one espresso at home, and of course the machine takes up space. I enjoy the experience of going to a good coffee shop or a neighborhood place where they get to know you. It breaks up the day. So you can see why I was stressing when they kept closing my neighborhood place early – the next place to go was pretty far. But that’s nothing to another blogger who lives two hours south of here – the snow was worse there and she could not get out for one week! The grocery store is 3 miles away. But she did take some beautiful photos of the snow. 🙂

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  20. I’m glad you are not looking for sympathy Lynn! Here in Colorado we measure snow if feet, not inches and we LOVE it! When someone complains about the snow here we tell them they should move! Look at all the wonderful images you would have never acquired if it were not for the freak winter you are having … embrace it … it’s a gift!!!

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    • Oh no, I was thinking about you when I wrote this and feeling sheepish. 🙂 I agree!! But I’ve gotten accustomed to milder winters and the prolonged cold has been hard to like. We’ve been significantly lower than normal all month. By the time I adjust, it will be Spring. 🙂

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  21. Perhaps it’s my age. I’ve seen enough winters, summers, blizzards, and hurricanes that I don’t get particularly worried by kinks in the weather. I still remember the winter the drifts were to the top of our two-story house on one side, with bare ground on the other, and my dad had to crawl out a window, shovel in hand, to make a path to a door. Of course, I also remember the April that a snowstorm left our blooming tulips up to their very necks in snow — and they did just fine.

    Which is to say, I miss snow sometimes, and envy yours. I especially liked photo #13, with the contrast between the green and white. It reminds me of the snow-covered palms and lantana we had after a Christmas eve snow in 2004. The little clumps on the twigs just below are equally lovely. The ability of snow to cling always amazes me, and that’s one of the best examples I’ve seen.

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    • A nice wet snow is a beautiful thing to behold. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos, and I see you’ve had your fun with extreme winter, wow! I remember crawling up an ice-covered driveway on my stomach after school one day becasue walking was impossible, and making a maze of tunnels through them with my brothers….but after living here seven years I’ve become unaccustomed to the cold. We are still in a cold pattern, still below normal, and it’s been over a month. I’m not worried, I’m just longing for a warm day! But it will come, I know. 🙂

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