Winter applies its own kind of beauty, stripping most trees of foliage and blanketing both land and lake in snow. It’s a challenge to find any color but shades of gray and white.
It is a weightless, translucent white
not dumped from above as much as
breathed onto the landscape.
To the thirsty eye, though, there are, indeed, sips of colors to be found. Raw umber and burnt sienna oak leaves unable to let go their attachment to summer. The vividly lacquered bark of dogwood and other small, bare shrub stems striating snowy fields in airy patches of gold, burgundy, crimson, rust and even chartreuse. The quick, crimson check mark of a flitting cardinal.
CATCHING WINTER’S BREATH
But this time the drive home is different. Not for a coming out of those grudging colors, but for their further retreat. Today they are even more muted, everywhere veiled in white. And not the solid, hefty kind laid on by snow, but the weightless, translucent white of hoarfrost—a coating not dumped from above as much as breathed onto the landscape.
Birches, without the weight
of dark trunks to hold them
down, seem to hover...
While the pines seem sculpted, other bare, willowy trees are sketched in fine line. The crowns are consumed in luminous white; the trunks still black but for the frosted windward edges.
And the birches; without the weight of dark trunks to hold them down they seem
to hover, from base to branch a subtle fusion of white on white.
FROM MAGIC TO MYSTICAL
All the while, occasional leaks of sunlight pierce the mottled gray sky, their pools of light slowly sweeping like spotlights across this magical treescape. They turn up what already seems pure white to a brilliance one would think impossible if not lit from within.
Just as we’re thinking it couldn’t get any more glorious, specks of white seem to lift out of the treetops into the gray clouds. First there are a few; then dozens, rising, coming toward us. As they get closer we realize they are trumpeter swans, perhaps just taking off from nearby Itasca State Park.
The birds are huge and, as if intended to be the finale of our wintery wonders show, pure white except for black eyes, bills and feet. We watch the tandem of graceful, paired wingbeats pulse from each bird’s body to its wingtips in perfect mirror-image waves. The swans keep coming, right over us, in groups of five to fifty, for ten minutes.
We are left in awe, speechless.