By Mary Beth Pottratz
Jack Frost displays his artistry, as yesterday’s fog edges pine needles and twigs with a silvery lining of hoar frost. Stately red pines resemble flocked Christmas trees, each needle highlighted with crystalline flakes.
Fine particles of frozen mist drift through the air. It is early afternoon, and a nippy 23⁰ Fahrenheit. Although the sun is hidden deep behind gray clouds, frost has melted and refrozen like glass over crabapples and berries.
I crunch atop ice-hardened snow into the woods. Tracks of humans and animals mingle and cross, widened and skewed by yesterday’s frozen mist. The air is icily rain-fresh. I want to inhale deeply, but temper the desire. My head clears with each breath.
Minnesota’s December flower, a tiny, crumpled yellow, still blooms along the branches of a witch hazel shrub. Its five long petals and all its leaves have already fallen, leaving just the cup-like centers of the blooms.
Frosted trees march down a hillside to the edge of a wet meadow. My eyes follow the quick, white flash of a bird – a hawk? A few crows coast across the sky. Warm in my old down coat and toasty hiking shoes, I lean against a tree to scan the forest. Even the squirrels seem to be hiding from the cold!
Following their cue, I head into Oswald Visitor Center to warm up. A massive Christmas tree, a giant dreidel, twinkling lights and winter greenery decorate the hall. Violins play holiday songs from a nearby meeting room.
Upcoming events are listed here; naturalist and educator Jim Gilbert will be signing his new book “Minnesota Outdoor Wonders” next Saturday afternoon, Dec. 22. Gilbert is a noted Minnesota phenologist – studying the dates of changes in our flora and fauna. He authored the Arboretum’s Nature Notes column for many years.
I make a mental note to attend – and hope you will, too!
Mary Beth Pottratz is a Master Naturalist Volunteer