The White Light of Winter

1.

Like huge swaths of the US, the Pacific Northwest was walloped with a blast of arctic air this week. Where I live, snow fell for hours, leaving about 7″ (18cm) on the ground. The white light of winter was accompanied by days of round-the-clock below-freezing temperatures, which is unusual here, especially in December.

I may have grown up with plenty of snow but, after living in the Pacific Northwest for ten-plus years, I’m not used to it anymore! Determined to get some exercise, I set out on a short, cold walk in a park by open water one afternoon. Brisk winds whipped straight across the water, waves dashed the shoreline, fir trees moaned and my extremities went numb.

But as I said, I was determined to walk – and of course, I had a camera in hand. The rhythmic scissoring of my legs over crunchy snow felt good after several sedentary days. By alternately warming each hand in a pocket to regain movement in my fingers, I was able to make a few photographs. Near an empty bench, two round, dark bird blobs bounced across the snow, looking for stray bits of anything edible. I threw a handful of peanuts from my pocket onto the ground. The sparrows wrestled with the too-large morsels but it seemed to be worth the effort. Other than a handful of bundled-up walkers, two cross-country skiers, and five sparrows, nothing but wind and waves moved.

Despite the cold, I lingered over the beauty. It’s always that way, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what discomfort we feel in the moment, it’s all forgotten when something exciting catches our eye. What caught my eye that day were the sculpted curves of snow drifts in the sinking sunlight, a patch of almost-bare ground that the snow battered with such force that every blade of grass was outlined, and sunglow on the fir trees in the forest.

Bringing my scarf up over my face, I turned back and walked as briskly as I dared on the snowy lane that was unplowed and closed to vehicles because the island’s few snowplows were urgently needed in town. Christmas lights strung carelessly in a tree by the parking lot welcomed me with the warm charm that makes me grateful to live here, away from city sophistication. Heading home in my unglamorous but dependable Ford Focus, I looked forward to a warm house, brightened by the white light of winter at the windows.

*

2.
3.
4.

5.

6.
7.
8.

*

The blanket of snow has brought many pleasures. Crossing the bridge to the mainland this week, we wondered at the beauty of a mackerel sky, clean, white fields, and the mirrored surface of the Swinomish Channel. I recorded the scene with my phone from the passenger window, closed tight against the frigid air. One day I drove around March Point and stopped for a minute to gaze over Padilla Bay, just north of the fields seen below. Ducks gathered in tight masses close to the shoreline. To the east, the clouds opened a narrow window onto snowy foothills. A skein of ducks flew silently over the bay, perhaps to spend the night huddled at the edge of a slough.

*

9.
10.

*

At home, a Dark-eyed junco huddled in the Redcedar tree that stands tall beside the house. The birds are so hungry this week that they only fly off at the last second when we step out of the house. It’s the briefest interruption in their all-day-meal at the suet and seed feeders. Stand still in the doorway for a few seconds and they flutter back down to the ground like autumn leaves, so close you can hear them alight. I treasure these intimate moments with wildlife. Making my way with big, soft steps into the snow, I walked back toward the woods and found a leaf that seemed to have been dipped in snow cream and rose hips with elfin snow caps. Even the deck fencing was transformed into a series of toques, ready for a bevy of chefs to place on their heads and get to work. What ingredients would they find? Perhaps cascara tree bark, rose hips, and wildflower seeds would be a start.

Reveling in the lovely, deep snowfall, I made a few more photographs before my fingers went numb again. Werner Herzog said, “The world reveals itself to those who walk.” And, I would add, to those who look. I hope your solstice holiday time, wherever you are, allows you time to walk and attend to the earth and its gifts. And speaking of gifts, thank you so much for the gift of your presence here this year.

*

11.
12.

13.
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15.

***


49 comments

  1. Ofcourse your eyes are always looking for beauty, to be and see better. Lovely first image.

    Only last night I heard about a grooming storm over the pacific like never before in many years- the headline said.

    Hope it’s just news. Enjoy walks, it’s important to not be completely stationed in winters.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Narayan, it’s good to hear from you. Our storm was unusual but it wasn’t as bad as many other places in the states and Canada. The temperature has already gone up and the snow is melting. You’re right, it’s easy to become too sedentary in the winter but I try to get out. And there’s yoga class twice a week! πŸ™‚ Best wishes for 2023 to you!

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  2. Nice white walk, Lynn. Brave! Must be extreme cold according to the news-items about the weather in the US. Lots of rain overhere, unfortunately. Love your landscapes in 9 and 10 with their almost b&w silence and wideness. Enjoy the last days of the year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brave, or desperate? Maybe a little of both. Many places have much worse weather than ours and the temperatures already went back up here so no complaints! The phone did OK with those landscapes, didn’t it? Views tend to be wider away from the island, where there’s agriculture. It’s a nice contrast. Thanks Harrie, best wishes for 2023!

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  3. Another thoughtfully considered and illustrated contemplation, Lynn. I have to say, #11 really stands out for me. I am so glad you kept your eyes and mind open to receive the beauty of the manifest realm.

    Wishing you the very best of times over the yuletide season!

    β„πŸ§Šβ›„πŸŒΏπŸŽ„πŸ•―πŸ€πŸ•ŠπŸŽπŸŽ‰πŸ₯‚βœ¨

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We’ve heard a lot on our TV news about the extreme weather in the US. I’m glad you’re still able to get out and about. Roads here would be totally impassable if we had so much snow! I know completely what you mean about forgetting discomforts when chasing a photo πŸ˜ƒ And I’m so glad you did as you have some beauties here! Favourites? I’d go for 5, 9, 10 and 14 I think πŸ˜ƒ Have a wonderful Christmas and stay warm!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many places have it much worse than we did…I’m used to driving on bad roads because I grew up with that. It was fun to see all that snow. The temperature has already gone up here and the snow is melting fast so it’s back to a typically rainy Christmas. It’s fun to see which photos appeal to you, thanks for that. And you have a wonderful holiday. Best wishes for 2023, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Lynn, I miss the beauty of snow. I’m glad you braved the cold to explore and photograph. The landscape with the flying birds is marvelous as is the single flying bird. Did he fly at you and you snapped? So good. The pine trunks in sunlight with snow is beautifully composed. And your snowy close-ups are a pleasure to view. Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish you and your family the same, Jane. It was really fun to see the snow – nice and deep. The road by our house was awful but temperatures have gone up now and it’s fine. Anyway, we East Coast girls know how to handle it, right? πŸ˜‰ Those birds move too fast for me! But a blurred photo can be nice so I went with it. πŸ™‚ THanks so much, Jane, have fun tomorrow!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful your photos of the white winter light πŸ™‚ Again I like your writing here. What a nice description of your winter walks! I love the bird in #5! The cold must be heavy! We saw pictures on TV. Crazy. I hope your temperatures won’t go down any further. I understand you so well, forgetting the cold while enjoying beautiful things or taking pictures! Recently I did the same. After almost an hour in the woods I noticed I had to get back home πŸ˜‰ Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you both!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh good, I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the writing as much as the images. Maybe what you saw on TV was from other places because many states have been hit much harder than we were. Our snow was deep and unusual but not as crazy as in some places. The temperatures went up so it’s melting very fast.
      An hour in the woods in cold temperatures when you’re moving slowly because you’re looking carefully and taking pictures – that’s a lot. But it’s good to know that you’ve been getting out a lot. Have a wonderful time on Christmas and my very best wishes for 2023! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Happy Solstice and Holiday Season! I’m glad to see the weather was a bit less severe where you are. We had an ‘adventurous’ week and most days were impassable, even on foot. Then lost many huge limbs to the ice storm, but the coated twigs and even the howling winds were full of beauty and awe. Looking forward to the return of light!! Wishing you the best, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It does sound like it was a lot worse where you are – we didn’t get that much ice. I’m used to driving on bad roads and only the secondaries were bad, Rt. 20 was fine. But Joe walked one day and said it was really icy. We didn’t have many limbs down and only lost power for a few hours. I’m glad nothing came down on your house! Of course, you appreciate the wonder of it. I bet the river is beautiful! Tell me you have some photos….
      And best wishes for 2023, Sheri!

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  8. Snow is a whole new look in the northwest, isn’t it? Real nice set overall. Surprisingly, #5 is the one that kinda jumped out at me, a little angel in the gloom. We didn’t get much snow down here, just a trace with a bit of ice on top. But the wind howled down the gorge, and it’s back again today.

    Happy holidays, and hope 2023 brings lots of chances for more good photos. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • That much snow in December is new! It was very pretty but wow, so cold!!! #5 was one of those clicks that missed so I cropped around the blurred bird and did a few more things. A little angel in the gloom, that’s nice. I hope your power stays on through the winds! Best wishes and photographic opportunities for 2023 to you, too. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Lovely thoughts and images of winter’s light. To me images 1,2 and 4 bring out the essence of this light by their simple elegance.
    Thank you. Dave

    β€œIt’s not what you look at, It’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

    Liked by 1 person

    • It wasn’t just normal snow-cold, it was seriously snow-cold! Like 15 degrees F – it barely got to 7C for days. Then it warmed right up and it all melted. We’re now back to our normal, wet, cold-but-not-horribly-cold winter days. Best to you, Julie, thank you very much!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This is definitely a beauty I hardly know and that with each passing year is more difficult to find in my country.
    But this set of images reveals how an attentive eye can find so much beauty in the midst of snow and cold. And it was really cold there! ❄⛄

    Liked by 1 person

      • Well…that’s not quite the case, because our houses were made for mild weather. However, when it’s cold in winter, they get cold and nasty because they don’t have good insulation.
        Only buildings built in the last few years take into account the energy factor and future energy savings.
        All this means that, in winter, even with little cold compared to yours… we feel it at home! And then we turn on the heaters…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Interesting…what many older homes in this area lack is air conditioning. We don’t really need it here because there’s so much water around to cool the air down, as well as so many trees. But there are usually a few days in summer when we’re uncomfortably hot. I read an article today about the best places for Americans to retire abroad and Portugal was in first place. We’re happy living here but I would still love to visit your country…maybe someday! πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

        • This issue of being a pleasant country chosen by many foreign retirees and with good purchasing power is creating a serious problem in housing in our country. Since this began to happen, housing prices (buying and renting) have risen to such an extent that most Portuguese people no longer have homes compatible with their income/purchasing power.
          We obviously like tourists who visit us, but we don’t like the fact that staying here interferes with our lives, especially with the lives of younger people who want to leave their parents’ homes and find a place to live. At the moment this is unbearable/impossible and a serious problem that our government has to solve anyway, even with drastic measures.
          We’ll see.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I thought you might have something to say about that subject! I am not surprised that housing prices have gone way up after the influx of people from other countries with money to spend. In this hemisphere, probably the same thing has happened in parts of Ecuador and Mexico. Even where I live I hear about wealthy retirees moving in because this is such a beautiful place and making it hard for people who grew up here to buy or even rent a home. I’m sorry that it’s such a big problem in Portugal. I hope people think hard about the problem and begin to make some creative solutions.

          Liked by 1 person

    • It’s never a problem – but especially this time of year it’s not! πŸ˜‰ I do like all the words you used to describe the blurred bird. Thank you for encouraging me to go in that direction, Robert, and best wishes for a peaceful, creative 2023!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Nice! I noticed you replied somewhere on one of your posts about enjoying processing photos on the computer. I do, too, though scoliosis makes it harder all the time. That photo began as a misfire and was severely cropped before applying other LR modifications. Glad you like it and I hope you had a very nice holiday & New Year.

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    • Thanks, Peg – we did! I think it was quite a lot more than Seattle. It was gorgeous but I am SO not used to temperatures in the teens and it took almost an entire week to get back to our normal low 40s. Very thankful for good heart, good insulation, and long underwear. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Will I ever get caught up? At least I’m attempting to make it into the new(ish) year.
    Hope it’s been a good one for you so far!

    Favorites: 7, 9 (mackerel sky -what a great description!) and 10.. and all the others…
    The computer is still giving me fits, but the storms have cleared down here. Amazing the amount of snow you got up there. We barely had a whisper of frost one cold morning (when the sun came out!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Gunta, you’ll get caught up as best you can and the rest will have to fade into oblivion. πŸ˜‰ We’re doing OK. Finally saw the babies again last week, which was wonderful. As for snow, be aware that this storm was unusual and we haven’t had a flake since then. We do see frost on the grass from time to time and I expect we’ll see it early next week, when temps are going to be in the 20s overnight. But the beaked hazelnut trees and the dogwoods are coloring up and we saw 11 Bald eagles along the road today on the way home from PT. The birds are singing just a little, tentatively….
      Good to hear from you!

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