Early Winter, when the snow is confined to paths…

Well, snow has returned to Wisconsin for another Winter! Of course, I have been eagerly awaiting this…

As always, I keep an eye out to see the distinctive ways in which snow transforms a landscape. During early snows, sometimes the only places where the snow sticks, or remains, can be the places that are flat and cleared out – including paths. I find it odd to be walking (and slipping) on snow – while there is almost no snow elsewhere to view!

 

What I can check out is this line of white, this river of snow cutting through the surrounding brown. Off the path – just a little frosting of snow. But strikingly easy to see where the path goes! (Dramatically go, given that the path is normally pretty close in color to the trees and leaves.)

 

Literal rivers and streams also stick out. In a wetland, areas wet and open enough that they lack grass and trees now wear mantles of white – while the surroundings mostly keep the colors they will wear for most of the winter.

I was hoping to see early ice – which I have found quite stunning in the past. I didn’t – instead, the ice was much of what the snow covered at this point.

This is not yet the time of winter when there is a full carpet of snow, setting up sharp contrasts between dark trees (and nights) and the bright snow below. But we can check out a partial version of that.

(Any readers who live somewhere where light snows are typically all they receive might be able to observe this, and share their observations about it, as a larger part of their Winter experiences.)

On a smaller scale, we can observe this phenomenon at play on other objects that create a clear flat plane. On this day, small open spots held onto a dusting of snow. Tree trunks also let the eye trace snow-coated lines on the landscape.

I think this is part of the charm we can find in winter. Different types of snow, different amounts of snow, different times of season, each can reshape the landscape in different ways. Getting outside on a regular basis, and keeping an eye on these differences, can keep us engaged and entertained during Winter – give us something to look forward to.

What have we cleared? What has nature left open to the sky?

Why notice this? To what end? Because I enjoy observing. Because I like to see the differences. Because I hope that by pointing out some of what can be observed, I can help raise interest in observing the outdoors during winter.

So here’s to hoping you enjoy seeing the ways snow transforms the landscape, day to day and snowfall to snowfall, wherever you are!

 

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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 ambassadorofsnow@gmail.com.
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