Snapshots: viewing snowy landscapes from buses

Front yards of homes present themselves as largely sheets of white. Perhaps the backyards show more use, but the front yards had few footsteps in them. The cleared-off parts, driveways and sidewalks, are a small part of the landscape. (Businesses stick out for their expanses of asphalt.) I saw a few houses where people appeared to be making use of frozen, snow-covered ground as a place to turn their car around on.

Lawns give people a chance to work with nature, to plant, prune, and shape. That is basically not the case with snow. Which is, to be fair, usually in the midst of constant change, so not worth much effort to shape something that might melt quickly. But ‘lawn work’ gets replaced by… ‘snow removal.’ Children might run around, build snowmen and snowforts, or even make some patterns. Adults, I suspect, rarely do this.

Snow covers so much. Feels like it paints over parts of the landscape. Parking lots, lawns, farmed fields, grasslands, miscellaneous city and rural lots that are home to a variety of equipment – each of these can, at least for a time, be covered with the same basic ‘grounding.’ A certain amount of diversity of ground (and lot) conditions is lost, replaced with the bright coating of snow.

Private space often appears divided into ‘land we aren’t using, and that gets left as sheets of snow’ and ‘areas we walk on, which we will try to clear of snow and ice (and surround with piles of it).’ It is pleasant to look over white zones – and leave me with kind of an odd sense of unused space. Don’t know for sure if a weedy area gets limited use or not. But I can watch for tracks on snow to see if anyone has walked on, or moved any items onto, an area.


I got a chance to soak in 180 degree angles. A lot of horizontals (ground), a good number of verticals (trees). To get to soak in the diagonals of a forest, I may need to get closer up, deeper in.


(Contrast this with driving on one’s own. I do not have much to say about driving in winter… since its not much of an experience of winter. Its designed to get one through space, especially in areas that aren’t designed to be scenic – not to allow one to connect to it. And perhaps many of the things that frustrate the average American most about winter have to do with cars and driving.)


Riding on the bus can give one a chance to look in directions don’t normally, if briefly. That I appreciate. But there are limits – one day, windows were hard to see through, splatter of slush or some other wintry-mix covering. Another day, the bus I rode had an odd on the side, covering windows. Little dots let light through, but it was hard to look through, and kind of a pain on eyes.


I have a slightly elevated view of rural areas, since the bus rides higher than a car does. This allows me to see lots of different snow snapshots, lots of examples of how snow can settle on farms, businesses, other places. I cannot quickly come up with other examples of how one could take a similar ‘snow tour.’

I actually spent much of my rides looking out at the snow – for a snow-lover like me, a chance to sit back and enjoy looking over snowy scenery left me almost feeling like the ticket price was justified just as a tour of wintry Wisconsin!

I am more used to focusing on the local and the micro-level. A good number of my favorite winter photos involve me lying down to take a closeup of ice, for instance. But here is the macro side; a survey of hours worth of different winter scenery.

Are there large-scale patterns to be observed? Not so much, at least in Wisconsin. The large patterns I saw tended to be small enough in scale that one could observe them in a local park, or a big field. But the chance to see so many different examples was entertaining, at least in limited doses.

About MilwaukeeSnow

Dr. Jeffrey Filipiak, Milwaukee's Ambassador of Snow, loves winter, Milwaukee, and environmental history! He has taught college courses on topics including history, writing, environmental ethics, food studies, the Great Lakes, and sustainability. You can contact him at
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