Cold as Ice

By Greg Lecker

“COLD”…..the word is frozen in my mind as I walk around the Arboretum grounds, baring my hands to operate the buttons on my camera.

The cold depths of our winter all too often brings either depressingly low cloud cover and moderating temperatures, or still weak sunlight struggling to make up for energy lost during the long, dark night.

The goddess Flora herself appears to be locked in ice, as evidenced by this red oak leaf I found while walking through the sugar maple forest.

Red Oak leaf encased in ice

Red Oak leaf encased in ice

This past week, I learned from radio news reports that, thus far, lake ice conditions favor wintering fish.  For much of this winter, the often bare clear ice allows sunlight to penetrate to the liquid water below.  This leads to greater aquatic plant growth, and, in turn, larger amounts of food for our scaly swimming sidekicks.

Ice covered pond

Ice covered pond

I admire the many different cloud patterns as I encircle the Arboretum grounds on the roadway that serves as pedestrian path during the winter months.  Wikipedia poetically describes clouds as a “visible mass of liquid droplets or frozen crystals of water suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body”.  I like to think that the clouds slowly filling today’s sky are the frozen exhalation of Boreas, king (or god) of the North Wind.

Cloud patterns

Cloud patterns

Seeking a shortcut from Three Mile Drive back to the Visitor Center, I walk through the shrub rose collection on route to the Green Heron Pond.  Before I can reach the Hemlock Circle sculpture, a passing deer herd blocks my passage.  Their rust-colored bodies rush by as deliberately as a flowing freight train, but with the whisper of a light wind.

Here’s the good news I heard today, Groundhog Day.  “Punxsutawney Phil”, the official groundhog I grew up with, did not see his shadow, because it is cloudy there in Pennsylvania.  Groundhog oracles interpret this as a forecast of an early spring.  Let’s hope so.

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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