Sky and Snow

By Greg Lecker

The air is very still this morning.   Without wind, even a 10 degrees Fahrenheit morning feels comfortable, if one is well dressed.  Above, the sky is dotted with clouds; and heavy clouds ringing the horizon block the struggling sun. 

Sun and clouds wrestle

Sun and clouds wrestle

Entering the woodland path, I hear the ever present buzzing call of a Black-Capped Chickadee.  From farther away comes the faint call of a Northern Flicker or Pileated Woodpecker.   From within the maple sugarbush, noisy chattering directs my attention upwards to the tree tops.  A gray squirrel chuckles nervously and summons the courage to leap a greater than usual gap between limbs reaching towards each other from opposite sides of Three Mile Drive.   Scanning the tree tops, I spy a squirrel’s leaf nest constructed high above, securely anchored between several adjacent limbs. 

Leafless tracery and leaf nest

Leafless tracery and leaf nest

With the sun still largely obscured from behind cloud cover, the snow carpeting the prairie hillside appears gray.  The snow is darker still in the shadowy woodland below the prairie. 

Gray prairie snow below cloudy sky

Gray prairie snow below cloudy sky

There are no tracks to spoil the six inches of freshly fallen snow.  Over the next hour’s walk, I will see just one visitor on cross-country skis and another visitor walking the loop roadway. 

The ever curving roadway rhythmically directs one attention this way and that – here to the sculpture garden, there to the distant iconic red barn.  Finally, sunbeams break through the clouds and burst through the trees of the conifer collection.

Sun breaks through

Sun breaks through

Arriving at the back door to the Snyder Building, I visit the former tea room terrace to check in on the bird feeder there.  Four Cardinals, several Black-eyed Juncos and Black-Capped Chickadees, a Downy Woodpecker, and several fat Blue Jays hungrily feed.    

My reward for an hour’s exercise is a viewing of the Arboretum Photographers Society show in the second floor restaurant gallery (continues through April 4) and the Arboretum Members/Artists’ Show “Minnesota Magic” in the Oswald Building’s first floor Reedy Gallery (on display through March 31).  On my way to the parking lot, I marvel at the two-story orchid tree, on display until potted orchids are sold February 15 for $12 each.   If you’re planning a visit that Saturday, consider calling the membership office (952-443-1440) in advance so that they can order enough hot chocolate for their Membership Appreciation Day events, 10 am – 3 pm.

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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