Tuesday, January 18, 2011

1.17 Trees Under Ice

January: a poem

More snow-scape today
The world is so beautiful
And I am so cold

So the second blizzard of the season, the first January storm, was a wicked northeaster coming up from the South, of all places, and hitting us with a wet blast that accumulated fewer inches than predicted, but turned to ice too fast to melt. The snow was so wet and heavy, and followed so quickly by cold air that the thick coatings of frozen white coating – you can’t call it snow – are still hanging on tree limbs and trunks and signposts, the tops of shrubs, and the sides of buildings almost a week later. “Clunk,” you hear, standing outdoors, if you dare, and an ice cube falling off a branch lands at your foot. In downtown Boston they put signs outside buildings warning you against falling ice. Solid ice cubes dropping great distances are solid dangerous – but are you supposed to do?
It looks like ice cotton. Clumping onto surfaces, and hanging. Fingers too cold to pick it.
It sits so heavily on the tall maiden grass in the front garden, the queen of that garden portion’s “winter interest,” that I’m not sure when, or even if, the long limbs of bronzed grasses will fly their feathery flags again this season.
I’ve surrendered the outdoors for all but fast-tromping hikes, and am less interested in the conditions of plants than the condition of my toes.
We go walking in the Arnold Arboretum over the Martin Luther King Day weekend. Three days after the heavy-snow blizzard, the tree park is a surrealist landscape, snow blanketing all storm-facing planes of the fine-grown specimen trees. Over fifty percent of these exposed surfaces still show a thick snowy veneer in some quarters. We hike up hill and down through the park, find side paths where small parties of cross country skiers are working their way down while we climb in their tracks upwards.
The storm has also brought down limbs from some trees, including some varieties we have admired before (whose identifies I can’t find because the snow has covered their nametags). Back home, we don’t seem to be suffering any damage to the woodier plants. But the sub-freezing days that followed the storm has turned so much wet snow to ice that I’m afraid to walk around for a closer look. Who knows what I’m stepping on.
Every evening, though, the sunset and twilight reflections off frozen white surfaces are stunning. Sun too weak to melt. Sun enough to dazzle.

Ice Light: a poem

Reflections off a frozen field
Sun too weak to melt
Sun enough to dazzle

Tuesday morning snow falls again. Fat fluffy flakes cover the frozen, chunky surface, making the surfaces more beautiful. The temperature is still a few degrees below freezing, so I think maybe it will last.
But the predicted rain comes in the afternoon. All of the new snow turns to slush. What if these wet slushy puddles freeze again tonight? What will that do to the plants below?
Every year, every season, is a living laboratory for the world outside my window.