The other day a friend asked me if it's hard to find something to write about in winter. After all, it's not the middle of June, when all is green and life is all around. It's true that there are fewer things that are obvious to write about once the leaves, flowers, summer birds and insects are gone. In the winter I look deeper to see the beauty around me. The landscape is a beautiful contrast of black and white, and a snow-covered tree or weed becomes a work of art.
The white-tailed deer have no place to hide against the snowy landscape. Gone are the leaves that would conceal their presence in the summer. The deer browse the tender new branches along the edge of the woods when the snow gets deep. So far this winter, the deer look healthy, fat and fit, but it's a long time before the spring thaws melt the snow.
The Kickapoo River looks almost warm and peaceful draped in a white blanket of snow. Very little life is stirring along the banks where the blue ice meets the dark water, and the river seems to be walking in its sleep. Six months from now, the river will be the lifeline again for ducks, geese, dragonflies, mosquitoes, turtles, snakes, swallows, kingfishers and a thousand other creatures that bring it to life.
The full moon is always one of my favorite events of the month, but it's an extra special treat on a snow-covered winter night. It was so bright Saturday night that I could take pictures without having to use a flash. I couldn't resist taking a picture of the bright full moon atop the village Christmas tree in nearby Viola.
The trout stream was a beautiful example of black and white in perfect contrast—snow and water in a lovely winter partnership adding even more beauty to the valley wonderland.
Winter's most beautiful works of art may be right under our noses or just over our heads. I'm reminded how pretty the icicles are as they grow from the eaves of the house. They sparkle in the morning sun as if to assure me that cold can also be beautiful. The icicles look quite decorative hanging from the roof of this otherwise dull looking old gray house.
It was cold Sunday afternoon, but the sun felt good and helped warm the house. Seems like I make a lot of trips to the woodpile lately. Guess it's all part of living like this. Carrying wood and water are daily chores when it gets cold. Add a little snow to shovel, and it makes for plenty of exercise. So far, I have no complaints, but by March, I'll be getting pretty tired of winter chores. Even in the dead of winter, I still see some things that remind me of the lazy, warm days of summer. The little black seed heads of the black-eyed Susans still look pretty peeking up through the snow. It's easy for me to imagine them with their clusters of yellow petals and lush green leaves. I also notice an oriole's nest high in the branches of a black locust tree. I could almost see the bright orange oriole flitting in the green leaves and singing his beautiful summer song. The nest reminds me of how the male and female orioles would collect pulp from the orange halves I put out for them. They made lots of trips to that hanging nest to feed their hungry young. I'll be looking forward to making new oriole memories next summer, but til then, those from last summer are just fine.
While lugging a couple of pails of spring water to the house I set the pails down to watch a large bird in the blue sky. I see another, just as large. The two bald eagles were searching for food. They circled several times right over my head and then drifted off to the south and over the tree line. Gone. Often as not, I bring my camera, and often as not, it pays off. There's a late deer hunting season in the area. This means more "gut piles" left behind by hunters after they've field dressed a deer. These gut piles are easy pickings for scavenging eagles
The birdfeeders have been getting a lot of feathered visitors every day. Everyone's hungrier when it's cold. There are lots of woodpeckers around this winter, so I have to refill the suet feeders every two weeks or so. Of course, the bluejays get their share of it, all twenty-five of them.
There always seems to be a downy woodpecker at the suet feeders. There are six pairs of them, as well as four pairs of hairy woodpeckers, three pairs of red-bellied woodpeckers, eight or ten nuthatches, three pairs of tufted titmice and some thirty chickadees. I can't even imagine what it would be like to go through a winter without wild birds to watch. I know I'm never alone. All my friends are just outside the window.
If you would like to fill a New Year resolution in a productive and creative way, start keeping a journal. At the end of each day, jot down some reflections. Who knows, maybe it will lead to short stories or poetry. Keeping a running bird list can be fun and habit forming, for sure. These are all fun things for children to do, too.
Happy New Year to all of you from all of us here at Organic Valley.
All art ©2013 Organic Valley
Just want to thank you for best wishes in the coming year. I hope that 2013 is a healthy, happy and productive one for you and yours. Thank you for being so thoughtful, Elaine.
So nice to hear that I helped bring back your beautiful memories of winters past. Yes, the cold becomes more apparent as we grow older, but we’ve learned to accept it. Who would have thought that our memories of past winters could help get us through this one?
Thank you so much for sharing your winter thoughts, Maggie.
I know what you mean. Winter wouldn’t be winter to me without some snow. Sometimes, I think I’d rather be down in Florida than in Wisconsin without snow. Already I’m looking forward to seeing the first signs of green in the spring. You’re not crazy, Jeanne, just a little homesick. Ha!
Thanks for the nice greetings. Take care.
Sure, there’s trout in the Kickapoo River, although most of the trout fishing is done in the many small streams that flow into it. I remember an old local resident who fished the river his whole life. He didn’t catch a lot of trout, but many of those he did catch were beauties, some of them five pounds or more.
Good to hear there’s lots of winter food for the wild birds. A lot of ours has been covered with snow, but the birds are doing well so far.
Good to hear from you, Jan. Think spring!
Dear B and G,
How lucky you were to see a pair of these beautiful woodpeckers. Maybe if it’s a pair, they will stick around and nest in the area. That would be nice. Sorry I don’t know when pileated woodpeckers start their nesting duties in Alabama.
Remember Walter Lanz, the guy who created Woody Woodpecker? It is said that he used the fiery-eyed pileated woodpecker for his model for Woody.
Thank you for writing. Best to you.