Temporary Embellishments

There is a stillness to a calm winter day that no other season can match. The profound, stunning silence can make you believe you’ve gone deaf — at least until a tree pops from the cold, shattering the quiet — and the frigid, crystalline air can seriously create the impression your nose has caught fire. Days like this are part of the price to be paid to live in a place like this, but they are also part of the reward.

I joke in the fall about seeing the pretty leaves twice; once in their autumnal glory on the hillsides and again, a few days after they drop, as they clog the grates across the spillway. I also joke about waiting for the last oak to drop its leaves so I can be done with clearing those grates, but I never know just when that will be so I try to keep my sense of humor when those leaves are still coming out from under the ice.

Those leaves are suprisingly effective at blocking the flow, raising the level of Fish in a Barrel Pond beyond proper, and this last batch managed to not only block the flow, they were cemented firmly in place by the ice they collected, upstream and down, where water and air mix together at the grates. It’s not a particularly difficult task to clear the obstructions, but it is a bit more interesting when the morning starts with a temperature deficit and Ye Olde Moustache is adorned with whiskercicles.

The bright orange hat keeps me from being mistaken for quarry during hunting season. The rest of the winter, it makes me and my location visible from a distance, just in case. My little hatchet is bright orange, too, for visibility. If I drop it I can see it at the bottom of the stream and keep an eye on it until the water is warm enough to retrieve it sometime in May.

Bashing ice and frozen leaves from the spillway got me outside on a day I’d have rather stayed in, but I’d have missed out if I had. So many of the day to day events that take place here are short-lived and you have to be here when they occur or it’s like they never happened, like the hatch of blue winged olives on a September Saturday that no one fished because it was raining (I was working and watched the rises). Guys complained about the fishing after not fishing at all, but they missed out. By the time the sun came out on Sunday the hatch had ended, observed by no one but me.

Or the days in August, when flying ants erupt from their nests to start new colonies. Thousands and thousands of ants get caught in the breezes and wind up sprinkled across the surface of the lake, which erupts in a frenzy of feeding trout chowing down on all that lemony goodness (Formic acid makes ants taste like lemon. You should try some. I have.) If that “hatch” happens on a Wednesday and you hit the water on Friday you will never know it happened. Those summer things are ephemeral and fleeting, just like the things that happen on days no one in their right mind would be out and about.

Cold surfaces and relatively moist air create frost. An even glaze on windshields, fuzzy coatings on fences and walls, and even the slippery surface of the front step are what usually come to mind, inconveniences at best, but take a look around if you happen to be out and about when no one else should be. What appear to be globs of snow on the ice are revealed, on closer inspection, to be fragile fronds and fillagrees of frost. Formed in stillness and silence, they will last only until destroyed by the first breeze or ray of sun.

In other places the frost blooms take on a different appearance, radiating spikes across the cold, dark ice. These will be gone, too, by afternoon, all traces erased by the breath of a breeze or the impact of snowflakes.

Formed overnight, silent and unseen, observed briefly during what passed for the “warm” part of yesterday, that frost is gone this morning, shattered and scattered by the wind and buried beneath last night’s snow. Almost like it never happened at all.

I posted more frosty words and pics last January in “Like Dew, Only Frozen”

Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Temporary Embellishments

  1. A beautiful treatment – pics and words alike. THANKS!!!

  2. Great pictures and post – nice job. I actually LOVE the FRIGID weather – occasionally!

  3. Auntie

    How beautiful and delicate!

  4. At first sight, I thought it was a hatch of snow-white caddis! 🙂

    And that “nose of fire” feeling? I’m glad it’s not just me. I don’t mind cold all that much, but biting, nose-on-fire, red faced cold? Uuugh. It’s awful!

  5. Ty

    Awesome stuff, Quill. Excellent read.

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