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  • Writer's pictureJean Linville

Ice & The Winter Solstice

This past week our little slice of the world was coated in almost a half inch of ice. Everything, from the smallest blade of grass to the largest tree was encased in a crystalline state of suspended animation. After the storm, a strong wind ushered in below average temperatures which has enabled the ice to continue to hold its grip for several days. As I venture out and about, heading across the lawn rather than on my carefully laid stepping stones, I fear that I am adding to the damage already done by the ice, but it is the safest option even with spikes attached to my boots. The slick ice covering every surface requires attentiveness and slowness.

As the sun rises over the ridge, the sparkling beauty is overwhelming. The scene before me is otherworldly. A smile moves across my face as I imagine our young granddaughter looking upon this landscape and thinking that the Snow Queen Elsa, from her favorite movie Frozen, must have visited here. Frozen magic meets real life indeed. At first, it appears that everything is frozen in place, immobile. But as I gingerly move across the lawn I hear the low creak of branches moving, some sending sprinklings of ice falling and tinkling as they hit and slide across the still ice-encased ground. These soft, gentle sounds are joined by resounding thuds accompanied by sharp crunches of ice as other branches, weak from holding so much ice, give way to gravity and break off hitting the earth. As the morning progresses, movement increases as birds and squirrels emerge from their havens and the low hanging sun coaxes the first drops of water out of the ice. The growth of some water drops are slow. So slow, that the sun has time to move across the sky, leaving them to hang in the cold shade of a nearby tree and allowing the cold air to freeze them in place. They will have to wait for the magic of the earth rotating on its axis and the arrival of a new day for them to have an opportunity to transform once again into moving water.

The hours of the day that are available for all living things, including me, to soak in some solar warmth are very limited these days as we fast approach the winter solstice on Saturday evening. Not only will tomorrow bring the shortest day and the longest night, the low arc of the sun on the solstice will also produce the longest noontime shadow of the year. Once Saturday is behind us, the northern hemisphere will once again begin to tilt closer to the sun, gradually increasing our amount of daylight hours. As I stand, spikes firmly stamped into the ice, I marvel at the beauty and wonder of the world. Here I stand in an illusion of frozen immobility, when in fact the world is rotating, tilting and spinning at rates that are hard to comprehend. It is good to move slow, take in as much as we can and ponder the magic that IS our world, no snow queen required. The image to the left was taken by Ian Hennes in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. He created this solargraph over the course of six months, between a June solstice and a December solstice, in order to make path of the sun during that time period evident. Wow! Happy Solstice! Enjoy the magic of the season.

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