As I have often written about here, I love winter and the ice and snow that come with the cold weather. Even on this the almost shortest day of the year, I find much of the weather invigorating as temperatures hovering around zero cause streams to ice over quickly in fascinating patterns. Then along comes a wild night as a Nor’easter blows through covering this part of the world in beautiful snow.
(An important bit of backdrop: of course, I write this from a warm home, belly filled with breakfast. Too many are in desperate peril—cold, hungry, broke, even homeless—while I have the privilege to photograph, write and post. To the many who cannot, I dedicate the beauty of these images. And to the rest of us, let’s dig even deeper than we have to help those in such need.)
The difference between water and ice, of course, is only a matter of a degree or two of temperature, made more interesting by such things as the rate of stream flow, the source of the water, sky openings, and snow, among others.
When temperatures are near 0°F, changes happen quickly. Some are a bit predictable; I know water may dam up, freeze into a small pond and then, when the dam breaks, either collapse or wait like a trap for me to walk on it unsuspectingly. Near holes in the embankment or holes in ice with still water, fingers of frost form that can be over an inch long, incredibly delicate, gone in an instant if I exhale in the wrong direction. The mix of patterns in the ice and the water are endlessly beautiful, in part because those in the water are constantly playing with rearranging the pattern.
I work with great care on mornings like this. Not so much that I’m worried about getting wet—though that is not fun, it is only a small stream and the car is not far away—but rather because a false step causes a pattern to be lost or snow coming off a tree branch obliterates the perfect ice crystals. Plus there is so much to take in that slow is best.
And I’ve not even mentioned the sounds! Rippling water, of course, but also flute-like notes from water down below the ice and staccato notes as a cup-sized bowl fills and empties. The variations are all part of a symphony of water and ice and cold weather. How fortunate I feel to be able to be in the middle of this performance!