December 2009 Issue
Words and images capture quiet tableaux of the season.
In spring, there is the grand mystery of rebirth. In summer, entire landscapes vanish behind shades of green. Fall is the season of nostalgia — when the wistful smells of wood smoke and apples remind us of homecoming dances, epic backyard football games and the last fresh garden tomato of the season.
Only in winter is everything revealed. The covers are off and we can see the world for what it is: a living Grandma Moses painting, busy and colorful, bursting from a white canvas of new snow.
Look into a tangle of brush, and there’s a cardinal. Its red feathers stand out like a flame on a candle. In winter, the secret stories of the wild things that live in our yards and woods and fields are written on the ground, like pages from a journal thrown open for all to see.
We spy the footprints of squirrels and rabbits and the track of a meadow vole burrowing under the snow. Deer and wild turkeys — so flawlessly camouflaged at other times of year — browse in the stubble of a cornfield.
Like a doctor reading an X-ray, our eyes penetrate the forests and thickets and we see the contours of hills, the bones of trees and the wandering veins of roads and rivers. The shining eyes of ponds open wide to take in the whole sky. Rose hips and red barns explode against the white landscape. Smoke as curly as a stray dog’s tail wafts from farmhouse chimneys.
The season stirs our senses, like a child shaking a snow globe. Skies are bluer in winter. The air is purer, the light is brighter, sound travels farther. A cup of hot chocolate never tastes better, a wood fire never feels warmer. The sun rises later in the morning, giving sleepyheads equal opportunity to savor its glory. It goes to bed earlier, letting the stars shine longer in the clear night sky.
Everyday things we take for granted become works of art worthy of an Ansel Adams photograph: frozen raindrops on a rusty wire fence, tree branches outlined in snow, the flower of last summer’s Queen Anne’s Lace encrusted in frost.
Our own breath becomes visible to us, parting the blue air with white clouds of warmth, reminding us that while other mammals hibernate and dream the dreams of spring, we are awake and alive to taste this sensory feast.
There’s a persistent myth that Eskimo peoples have hundreds of words for snow. It’s not true. They have the same number we do.
In Ohio, those of us who revel in the crisp, bright days of winter only need one word for it: Beautiful