Snow changes everything. A drab, brown, winter landscape becomes a fairy world. A moonlit night becomes silver bright. A windy gale becomes a cozy blizzard. Tufts of grass and the tiny life of plants stands out with new poignancy in the chill of winter when snow is heavy on the ground. Little sounds are magnified, like the rustle of snow falling from a burdened branch and landing with a soft sigh in the snow below. Little bird feet that hardly bend the grass in summer leave bewildering prints in the snow. Cold never seems as cold when snow is falling.
There must be magic in the snow.
We had just enough snow on Friday night to count, in my books at least, as a White Christmas, and Sarah and I made a point yesterday to get out and enjoy it thoroughly. With the goal of ending up with Remington and Dove, we set out at 3:45, bundled up and armed with our cameras.
Little things kept catching my eye, in ways that are different from the summer months. Winter is the season of shifting lights and shadows, and the life of winter is in the play of light and dark, the sparkle of frost in the moonlight, or the blue shadows in the snow beneath the trees. It was fitting, then, that what ended up tugging at my mind about this little family of coneflowers wasn’t even the flower stalks and heads themselves, but what stretched behind them. The magic of snow and the enchantment of light.
With the sinking sunlight in the west, the smoke from my uncle’s burnpiles a few hilltops over rose up like a fog and drifted north. The farthest hills and Harney Peak were nearly obscured, with their easterly slopes no longer lit by the sun. Shadowed hillsides shimmered blue, while sunlit little bluestem glowed golden, sparkling warmly in the chill winter air. Even the air seems to sparkle as the temperatures drop.
Tiny footprints of rabbits and delicate hoof prints of deer leave dimples in the snow. The snow doesn’t keep secrets. Gently-worn tire tracks, leftover from summer and not even deep enough to call a trail, were filled with snow and stretched on until they disappeared over the hill or into the trees. When spring comes and the grass grows back green and tall, the tire tracks will disappear, blending back into the landscape, overtaken by springtime. But winter remembers.
Even after a hard frost and inches of snow and months of winter weather, remnants of life still remain in the plants. Green leaves at the base of a taller plant, or tiny patches of woodsorrel or thistle, or these little leaves, unbitten by the frost. It amazes me to see how well God equips His Creation, and how hardy even the most delicate-seeming things really are. What wonderful capacity for survival God lavished on these, the works of His hands.
When we clambered out of a little hollow and up into the meadow where the horses are, the sky was a clear, pure blue, the snow a clean, pure white, and Harney Peak was visible in the distance. The horses saw us and came nearer to socialize. Dove was shy as usual, but I expected the snow to have put some spunk and spice into Remington. Instead of spunk and spice, he was mellow and affectionate, almost like a big dog. Each breath puffed a cloud of fog, and his hooves kicked up sparkling snow. Little Dove stood a ways off, content to watch from a distance.
The most mundane things take on new life in the snow. These little plants, brown at first sight, turned out to be red, when I crouched down to look closer at them. They seemed like tiny berries. The twiggy plants covered a hillside, catching the last of the light of the afternoon.
Shadows lengthened. When we finally got back to the top of our ridge and looked down at our cabin and the Miner’s Cabin, the sun had been behind the hills for awhile. Home looked cozy. Turkish coffee sounded good. No matter the season, I enjoy a good hike around our place. But in the snow, everything just looks different. New things are highlighted. Normally overlooked things stand out. There’s whimsy. A different sort of beauty. A touch of magic.