By Sydney Chandler
Recently, King Midas’s lesser-known, winter enthusiast sibling descended on the Arboretum. Rather than beautifying with gold as their brother would do, they gilded the landscape in an intricate layer of frozen fog. The resulting ice crystals give Arboretum visitors a new take on the beauty of winter while simultaneously challenging how they observe and recognize contrast in the landscape.
Ice-Gilded Flower Buds
The frozen fog transforms the landscape into ice-covered white shapes. Up close, these frozen formations mimic the detail in snowflakes. No features escape the ice: dried flower buds, grasses, tree branches, park benches, sidewalks, and dried leaves all transform.
Turkeys Find a Comfortable Perch
A fascinating consequence of the ice-gilded surfaces is that visitors must re-calibrate their eyes to notice stories on the landscape. Typical color contrasts to the white snow, such as blue sky or brown bark, are now greatly minimized. Visitors notice subtle shape differences to be the outlines of plants and trees against the foggy backdrop of the sky, shadows in the trees are clues to the presence of wildlife, and textures on the ground are evidence of the many animals that have shared the Arboretum trails since the snow fall.
Sharing the Snowshoe Trail with Deer
The gilded landscape is dramatically different from the usual color contrasts at the Arboretum but provides the opportunity to observe with re-calibrated senses and to foster an appreciation for winter worthy of Midas’s winter enthusiast sibling.
Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.