Monday, January 11, 2010

WHITE ON WHITE ON WHITE!




Have you ever been stunned by beauty? Not just noticed something pretty, had your head momentarily turned, your attention briefly diverted—but literally encountered something so blindingly lovely you found yourself stopped in your tracks?

Well, I have. In fact, it happened to me yesterday morning.




The mercury stood at a measly 3˚F when I stepped outside to toss the ducks and ground feeders their breakfast scoops of cracked corn. Yet my involuntary gasp and sudden halt was not due to the cold, but rather to my first sight of the scintillating white world I'd abruptly and unexpectedly entered.

White on white on white!




White snow-covered landscape. White sheets of ice along the edge of the river. White canopy of winter sky. White exhalations of breath. White-barked sycamores leaning thoughtfully over frozen white pools. Even the air itself seemed to have turned white.




Of course, hereabouts you expect to see white come winter. Ohio winters are white, and January is perhaps the whitest winter month. But this was a special white, a magical fairy-tale white—like the snow-globe white of a child's picture book. Because sometime during the night, the riverbank had been touched by the additional natural magic of hoar frost.




Now, every branch and twig on every tree and bush was also white. A softly glowing, radiant white. Only the upright trunks, a few large limbs, and the river's gray-green water offered any contrast, while simply emphasizing the overall whiteness of the world in every direction.

The effect was so extraordinary and dazzling, so breathtaking, I simply couldn't take another step. Sometimes, you just have to stop and experience the gift of allowing beauty to overwhelm your soul
———————


28 comments:

giggles said...

Oh my!!!! How beautiful, indeed! Isn't the frost/ice on the trees something like a "hoary frost?" or is that something different? I dunno. Whatever is happenning there is just wondrous and beautiful!

Hey did I tell you? I saw, with my very own eyes, in real live nature? DId I tell you?? A pileated!!! I will eventually post about it at my place, but I just was soooooooooooooooo excited to have seen one in real life!!!! In Ohio!!!

Tom said...

I had the fortune to drive north along I-71 from Columbus to the Akron area yesterday, and we witnessed the "hoar frost" as well. We had nothing in Columbus, but as we escaped the heat island of the city in central Delaware County, the landscape looked just like yours. In some places, there was a line in the forest above which was the frost, below, nothing. And as we continued north, sometimes the west side of I-71 had normal conditions, while the east side was covered with this frost. As we continued northward, and went through the larger valleys, they didn't have the frost, but as we climbed up in elevation once more, it was back. To see such tangible evidence of microclimate was really cool, and the areas where the frost was the most intense was amazing. It made for one of my most memorable I-71 drives, and I have made hundreds.

Tom

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

The name, the word, you're looking for is—TA DA!—hoar frost…which is the term I used in the post's sixth paragraph, second word from the end. :-)))))

You could accurately—if rather waggishly—describe me as a hoary scribe. (Yes, I know some folks think all writers are hoary scribes, though they're using the homonym.) In my case, it would simply refer to graying hair, or white mixed in with the auburn. Same as grizzled. Hoary can also mean old, as in decrepit, Grandpa Walton old. That one is only starting to fit this hoary scribe—though some days it fits pretty good.

One of my dictionaries defines hoarfrost (they write it as a single word) as: "grayish-white crystalline deposits of frozen water vapor formed in clear still weather on vegetation, fences, etc." I believe that et cetera allows for any similar frost which might also form on that flip-flop you lost in the weeds last August to the dead possum stretched recumbent in the middle of yonder road. I would also bet the coating of hoar frost improved that possum's looks.

Speaking of looks…I'm glad you finally saw with your own eyes that, unlike Scrat in Ice Age, pileated woodpeckers do indeed actually exist. See, this hasn't been an ornithological plot to make you crazy. (Actually, Scrat also exists, but he's really an ice weasel, not a squirrel. I don't think Regis Philbin exists, though.)

giggles said...

Dagnabbit! You caught me skimmming again!!!!!!!!!!!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tom…

Sunday's hoar frost here along the river was ubiquitous as far as I could see—from water's edge to the top of the hill beyond the cottage, which is maybe fifty feet higher or a a bit more. The tops of the trees on the island—some of them are over 100 feet—were also frosted.

I think your description of where you did and didn't see the hoar frost is most interesting and quite telling in that it shows how localized and limited this phenomenon can be. I doesn't take much of a rise or fall in elevation to make a difference in temperature, for example.

I remember years ago, when I rode a motorcycle, the way a dip in the road would sometimes take you into a pocket of cold (or sometimes, warm) air—especially at night when the wind had settled. You'd go zooming down a twisting backroad, up and down the hills like on a blacktop rollercoaster, in out of temperature zones—cold, warm, cold, warm, cold, warm.

The one part I can't figure is that side-to-side business re. the road. Obviously, the road itself is some sort of factor. Or at least the traffic. I would think up there the prevailing wind would be from the northwest. Left to right as you're traveling north. If vehicle exhausts were adding a BTU or two to the air, then the warmer air ought to have been on the east side of the road. Meaning the hoar frost ought have occurred on the west. But you saw just the opposite. So I'm wondering…if it wasn't exhaust heat from passing vehicles, could it have been exhaust moisture and moisture stirred up off the salted road (a film of melt water) which was thrown up by the tires and blown to the east side by the prevailing wind, which added needed moisture to allow the frost to form?

Whatever, I hope you got some photos. [FYI, I've been hoping to try your snowflake trick since reading your post the other day. I even remember that a friend once spent half the winter running around with these black cards which he would use to catch a few flakes, then bring them under the shelter of a porch where he had his camera set up. I can do that! Just hadn't remembered to do it! Egads! Old age creepth!]

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Yup…and no sin goes unpunished here on the riverbank. ;D

Jain said...

I was southbound on I-71 from Akron (might have passed Tom!) and saw ghostly treescapes at 65 mph. When we arrived home, I was sad that the yard lacked the perfect conditions for hoar frost. So glad you took your camera out to capture the morning! It's a fairyland, indeed!

Wanda said...

I woke at dawn to a twinkling snow fall and that same frosted look too. Hoar Frost...it was beautiful...I had to go out and explore as well. I posted a few photos too. Your post made me experience the beauty all over again!

Penny said...

Here we are having the most unbelievable heat ( 40 - 43 degrees C)which is desiccating everything to a light brown and you put up these incredible photos, I have seen snow but nothing like this it is so beautiful. Thank you for cooling down my day.

Grace said...

Wow! Don't you just love walking into a magical world when you're not expecting it. Magic is everywhere, hehe.

Bernie said...

We usually get heavy hoar frost in the Fall here, there have been times I have hated to open the gate as I didn't want to disturb it's beauty.....great photo's, all are my favorites......:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jain…

Wonder what is was that compelled two Buckeye nature bloggers to pick the same Sunday to go dashing up and down I-71 between Akron? You and Tom might could have waved at one another at a combined approach speed of 130 mph…wow!

That hoar frost didn't last long around here—maybe and hour or two for the full show. I'm glad I took a few photos, too—but I wish I'd have really worked the possibilities. It was really pretty.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

I wondered whether you had the same lovely setting at your place when I was out there, though I also knew it could easily be really localized. Sounds like it was pretty widespread, however.

I'll stop by for a look at your post.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Penny…

It's 20˚F out at the moment, which I think works out to about -7˚C. THAT would cool you down for sure!

Hoar frost is really pretty. Sometimes, too, we'll have a heavy ice storm, where everything is coated with a layer of ice. It's like the world has been recreated in Waterford crystal.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Grace…

Natural magic is,indeed, everywhere. And yes, I do love it…and try to enjoy it to the hilt whenever and wherever it crops up. Life is too short not to savor the good moments.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

Hey, that must be something. You're lucky to live in what must be a really lovely place.

Hoar frost is not that common here—maybe not even occurring once a year, at least not to the extent of the one in the photos. (At least that what my bedraggled memory is saying is the truth…though it's been one long day, I'm heading to bed, and in the condition I'm in, I wouldn't trust my brain and powers of recollection enough to remember my own name—and I've been using the same old name all my life.)

Anonymous said...

happy new year!!..................................................

KGMom said...

I particularly enjoy the close up photo of the fuzzy looking branches. Such an interesting effect.
Did the sun shine then? If so, you would be especially blinded with the ice and light.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Scribe - I just knew that your wood would be magic once the snow fell. I hope you just sit in the window, in the warm room, and enjoy the view (and eat some of that cornbread, which sounds delicious). Keep warm.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

your pictures are stunning - breath taking and so beautiful..And your shared experience is profound. I know of this white - created magically by hoar frost and ice and snow - the white is blinding almost - intense and total. One canonly stop and stare - emerge and celebrate the magic of WInter white.

Love to you
Gail
peace......

Carolyn H said...

I love that first morning after an evening's snow, before the breeze freshens, when snow sits on every surface of the forest. It never lasts too long, but I'm always glad I get to see it, if only for a few minutes.

Carolyn. H.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Anonymous…

Hey…Happy New Year to you, too!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

I should have set up on a tripod with my long macro and did a bunch of "fuzzy branch" shots. But……to my discredit, I didn't. It was really pretty though, those long crystal feathers.

No, the sun didn't appear—not direct sunlight. But it was really bright, like a giant "soft box" a photographer might use to eliminate the harsh, hard-shadow light, and as I said in the post, the sky was white and even the air seemed a fuzzy white, probably due to suspended micro-crystals. I don't know how long the hoar frost would have lasted in direct sunlight—probably not long, as the feathery formations were, as you would imagine, extremely delicate.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

Indeed the morning's hoar frost, the snow and sky and ice and slate-colored river, the birds and squirrels, and the scintillating light washing over everything…was certainly pure natural magic. Too lovely for words.

What a wonderful view it was to sit at the breakfast table and look out upon this transformed, fantasy-land world. A real treat.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

You are exactly right—the photos are nice, the words barely adequate…but even if my talent at both were quadrupled, I couldn't capture the reality of seeing and being there, immersed in this wonder.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

Yes, that's pretty, too—different than hoar frost, of course, but so light and feathery, and delicately placed. I find myself holding my breath least I disturb the scene. Winter, for all it's bad press and negative connotations, is still one of the prettiest season of the year. Summer simply can't compare…

Robin said...

This happened to me the other night. I blogged about it, but it wasn't well written.

I took Meander (our Golden) out for a run. We live on a beach in Chicago. It was dark, bitterly cold and the snow was deep. There were no neighbors out. Very quiet.

There's a grassy area above the beach and I was throwing a ball for Meander... focused on him getting his exercise so I could go in and get warm.

There were planes coming in from the East to O'Hare, a necklace of them over the water... as is usual for that time of night.

I noticed them and then looked down towards the beach. Not too far off the shore were five large, white Swans silently sailing north, all in a row.

It's funny how scenes like that take you away from yourself. It is so unexpected and uncanny, that self is forgotten for a moment... and you come out of it hearing yourself say... Oh!... Oh!.... Oh!. There is nothing to hold onto....

The back part of our apartment sits on the water looking northeast. I brought Meander inside and then went back out to see if the swans were still nearby.

In a pool left vacant by the ice... they swam together a ways away.... round and round.... one scouting out and back again.

I stood on a neighbors porch in near zero weather, In the dark, all by myself and said a prayer of thanks.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Robin…

That's a wonderful story, and I'll read your blog version tomorrow—but I can assure you, your recounting here is just great and lacks for nothing in description—either of scene or emotion. I can picture the lake and swans, the cold darkness, the circling planes, the windswept beach with the lighted buildings close at hand.

There is something in these moments that goes beyond words because it reaches in and touches your soul. Life is enriched by such visions, such small events that somehow carry so much weight, and in a way it was much better that you saw it while alone so you could give yourself fully to the moment.

I have moments I treasure, too. They wouldn't mean much to some, but to those who look for the wonder that's always hidden in the everyday, who possess a kindred spirit, they're gifts and blessing to be shared. Thank you so much for sharing this with me.