Monday, February 16, 2015

The Garden of the Seasons: Snowhere To Be

Photos, from the top: "The icicles garden." Thick icicles lining the wall inside the front porch eventually broke (when I hit them with something in order to release a shovel from their grasp). I took the broken pieces and 'planted' them in a planting box where we arrange annuals in May.
          Second from top. Particularly thick icicles outside my study window.
           Third from top, photo showing the extent of the snow walls, a few blizzards back, when I was still looking for color in the sky to contrast to the beauty of this white.
             Fourth from top, Anne approaching the window over the porch roof to disperse the threat of snow build-up. I failed to capture any of the sillier moments of the two of us climbing through the window with a shovel.
              Fifth photo down: shadows on the snow. In addition to the shadows, this one also attempts to show the area in front of the house that we used to call the "street."

Next photo down: The wind-sculpted surface of the freshly accumulated snow from Sunday's blizzard. The Valentine's Day Blizzard: massacre of a holiday. 
         Next to last: My search for color finally captures a male cardinal catching some late afternoon rays.
            The strangest thing about this time of year is the way it makes you think about the rest of the year. We're fasting for color, especially warm colors. It's been white, white, white all over. The arrival of a cardinal at the bird feeder feels like a rainbow.
            White is an interesting color in itself -- it takes direction. Shadows show this to us, particularly those of the late afternoon, approaching, lengthening, then taking possession. The hour of the shadow extending dominion over all our white world is something I look forward to every day, even this many days into the current siege of the of the overwhelming snow king.
               We're living in a monochrome world. Not entirely of course, but the dominance of deep, regularly renewed snow, affects how we think and feel and experience the world. We see things in black and white. When the sun shine, we add blue into the mix and enjoy a cleaner, brighter shade of white. When the snow ages, the temperatures rise to melt the edges, make slush, and skies lower for a day or two, the earth's previously bright surfaces turn a dreary, ashen, deteriorating, plundered disasters scene. A fallen world. All the positive, cheerful qualities of the outdoors dulled and dirtied, as if smudged with a bad eraser.

            Now after four blizzards, or sizable snowstorms (if not all quite rose to blizzard criteria in scientific classification they did in accumulation) in under four weeks, this latest assault from the upper airs seems only to call for a repetition of coping activities we have put into practice just a few days before. We prepare to be shut-ins by going to the store beforehand, we stay off the roads scrupulously when warned not to travel, however homebound this travel fast renders us, to avoid making life harder for the plows and emergency equipment. We stock up on entertainment.
            We have also begun, step by careful step to expand our repertoire of responses to putative white-world threats, hanging out the upstairs window in an attempt to push the snow off the flat section of roof over the porch. This does nothing to broaden our color range, since it seems we wear black winter-wear while flailing about in the mush of white.
            I look for color to photograph -- blue shadows, pink sunset.
            When Valentine's Day arrives, in the center of the last of last weekend's blizzard, the hunger for color is too much. I sneak out to the plant store to bring something home that isn't white, or black, or manufactured to look like nature. Something that mines the deeper resources of natural color.
            The photo of the resulting African violets appears at the bottom of the column.