Thursday, February 28, 2013

stark in the snowstorm

stark in the snowstorm,
bare black trees, black Angus cows --
the world in black and white

It looks like I took these photographs with black and white film, but that's the way the world looks, white snow, black trees and cows. It's been snowing continuously for three day, sometimes light, sometimes heavy. Temperatures have been wavering a few degrees above and below freezing, so the snow melts during the day, then piles up at night.
          The Black Angus have been hovering around the big round bales the farmer trucks in, pulling the hay down to eat and then sleeping in the dry grass that fall to the ground. About a month ago there were a dozen adult cattle in this little pasture. Overnight half of them seemed to shrink in size. I guess the farmer somehow traded adults for calves. Mighty cold for the poor babies trying to nurse in a snowstorm. 
          Four Canada Geese were standing on the ice on Osage Pond, but the moment I stopped the car, they flew off, only to land with the rest of the flock feeding in the corn field east of the cattle. You can see one of them flying above the cows in the bottom photograph. Later, several long lines of wild geese flew over, snow and wind pushing them west.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

sun lights the solar light

sun lights the solar light,
heats the dark metal, leaf, stone,
melts the sparkling snow

Before today's snow storm, last week's snow was nearly gone, melting faster around anything dark, a leaf, a stone, the black metal post of a solar light. At night the little solar light, fueled by stored sunlight, spreads its solar-like rays on the sparkling snow. 

wads of snow cotton

wads of snow cotton
caught on the bare lilac bush
bearing branches down

Another late spring snow storm, tiny wet flakes falling steadily all day and night, plastering tree trunks and collecting in every crotch like wads of cotton, weighing down the branches. Beautiful on foot, dangerous on wheels, a good excuse to stay home by the wood stove, listen to music, read a book.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

snow on the golden dome

snow on the golden dome
softened by sun suddenly
whoosh! let's go

Floating inside a circle of tranquility, practicing letting go. A sudden loud roar on the round roof as a layer of snow, softened by the sun, lets go and slides down the south side of the golden dome. No one even opens an eye. Silence outside swiftly returns to match the reverberating silence inside.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

whitecaps on the pond

whitecaps on the pond --
snowstorm from the west, east wind blowing
ice crystal waves on blue ice

Enormous ice crystal halo around the moon last night, omen of a late winter snowstorm heading our way from the west. So now that it's here, why is the wind hurling a gale from the east? Weird result of a low pressure front doing a flip flop. The storm is slated to last 24 hours but for now it's blowing so hard not much is piling up. Osage Pond appears to be covered with whitecaps -- white ice crystal waves on blue ice.

Monday, February 18, 2013

frost flowers blooming

frost flowers blooming
on glass panes -- spicules of ice
born from seeds of dust

The tempestuous passage from winter to spring continues: frost yesterday morning, rain today, turning to huge snowflakes. The window frost on the truck looks like lace, blossoms, feathers, ferns, arrows. The shape of the crystals is influenced by irregularities in the surface of the glass, such as scratches or dust. Like snowflakes, diamonds and pearls, the perfection of ice patterns is born from seeds of imperfection.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

first robin of spring

first robin of spring,
bold redbreast against bare branch,
waiting for ground thaw

Coming back from a walk in the woods I catch a flash of red-orange in the bare branches of a tree by Jack's Pond, the first Robin of Spring. Then another, and another, three red-breasted Robins, plump and healthy. The ground is still too frozen for earthworm-delving, so the Robins flit silently from tree to tree, searching for the last of the wild plums and chokecherries. They've been here all winter, roosting in trees, but mostly go unnoticed until they start hopping around on the grass, cocking an ear to the ground, listening for earthworms.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

seed contains the sprout

seed contains the sprout,
hardness cradles silken softness,
lightness harbors light

A milkweed pod, collected last autumn and placed on a shelf, waits all winter for a wind to carry its seeds on silken parachutes to fertile ground where they may germinate. But here in the house there is no wind and so the expectant seeds float lightly in a bed of white whiskers, gathering light when the sun shines through the blinds.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

the heart of a tree

the heart of a tree
loves even the lichen heart
tattooed on its bark

On 14 February we celebrate St. Valentine's Day with roses, sweets and greeting cards expressing love, but how many people know that St. Valentine was martyred on this date in 269 A.D.? So how did a martyr become associated with the tradition of exchanging love notes on Valentine's day? According to legend, the Roman Emperor Claudius II passed an edict forbidding single men to marry in order to increase enlistments in his army. The priest Valentine saw this as an injustice and defiantly performed weddings in secret. When this was discovered, he was imprisoned and sentenced to death by beheading. While in prison he fell in love with the daughter of one of the guards, who came to visit him. On the day of his death, he left her a note professing his undying devotion and signed it, "Love from your Valentine." It's a romantic story, but I can't help wondering whether the girl could read.
          St. Valentine is, of course, the patron saint of love, lovers, engaged couples, happy marriages, young people and greetings, but also, not so obviously, bee keepers, travelers, fainting, epilepsy and plague. Well, when a bee pollinates a flower, that's a sort of "love note." Travelers are sometimes looking for romance, or find love in unexpected places. In romance novels women often are depicted as fainting from an excess of emotion, perhaps brought on by a love note, or lack of one. Now, epilepsy and the plague, I don't know, maybe an association between uncontrollable shaking with the pangs of love?
          Whatever the truth of the legend, St. Valentine's Day is a lovely tradition. I wonder what would happen if we extended the practice of expressing love to every day of the year? Perhaps we, like the heart of a tree, would come to love even the lowly lichen.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

old stone surrounded

old stone surrounded
by glass & steel, the present
reflecting the past

You can see this scenario in many cities, an old edifice, built in the architectural style of a previous century, rubbing shoulders with modern skyscrapers. This ornate old stone building in Rochester, Minnesota, across from the Mayo Clinic, looks like a mother surrounded by her grown children, a little baffled but mostly proud, while the children, sleek and up-to-date, reflect their heritage in their facades.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Punxsutawney Phil

Punxutawney Phil
didn't see his shadow so
Spring is on its way

Groundhog Day. On the news we hear that Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous weather-predicting groundhog, did not see his shadow, which means we're supposed to have an early Spring. However, out here in Iowa, where the weather can be dramatically different from Pennsylvania, I don't know if any of our local groundhogs came out of their den. The weather was partly cloudy and well below freezing, so if they did emerge we don't know whether they came out at the moment the sun was peeking out from a cloud, casting shadows that would supposedly scare the woodchuck back into its den. Which means that we don't know for sure whether there will be six more weeks of winter in our neck of the prairie. But since winter lingers into March just about every year, it seems like a pretty good bet.
          One thing is for sure. If we'd seen a land beaver near our house, like the fat fellow outside our sun room in an earlier photo, we would have baited a live trap with marshmallows to catch the critter and then relocate it to Turkey Run Nature Preserve, far down the road from our place. Woodchucks are phenomenal diggers, tunneling up to five feet deep and 30 feet long to build their burrows. Since our house rests on a gravel foundation, we cannot afford to let them make a den under our living room.
          Smaller rodents, the squirrels, were out and about today. I watched one tunneling through the snow, searching for seeds dropped from the bird feeder. Every few moments it would sit up to quickly devour a black oil sunflower seed or frozen wild plum. It made me smile to see its little nose capped with a white powder puff. I also had a good laugh when the squirrel tried to snatch seeds directly from the bird feeder. It climbed up the wooden frame of the full-length sun room windows and leaped onto the feeder, but its weight triggered the anti-squirrel bar to close over the seed portals and it somersaulted to the ground. Back to rooting around in the cold snow!