Saturday, February 23, 2013

THE VOICE OF THE SNOW



Yesterday we had a late winter snowfall, getting about five inches of new powder added to the snow pack already on the ground. This winter in Northern Wisconsin, we have not received the huge, single snowfalls of one or two feet as have some areas of our country. I heard that on the east coast, in a part of our nation that we in America call New England, there were places that had a single snowfall of three feet and even more. We have not seen that here at our farm; just four or five inches at a time.
Even with that, there is now getting to be a considerable amount of snow in the woods in our part of the country. I have to pick up my feet quite high when I walk. Skis or snowshoes are not an option when one is working.
During yesterday’s snowfall, I looked up from my work for a moment to watch the snow falling. I was struck by the pure beauty of the flakes coming down from the sky. So enthralled was I by the scene that I put down my chainsaw and shut off my tractor so that I could watch it fall. I sat down on a log for a good long time, watching in silence.
I took this photo today, a day after the fresh snowfall
It was midday, but because the cloud cover was very heavy and the trees quite large in the area where I was working, the woods were much darker than they normally would be at that time of day. The softness of the light added to a mood of the woods, which, if I had to choose a word to describe it, I would call solemn. It was so incredibly peaceful that, in reality, one cannot describe it. It is one of those things that can be understood only by experiencing it.
The silence of the scene was also astonishing. I could tell by the stillness of the tree branches that there was absolutely no breeze blowing. The snow was falling straight down. It was so quiet in the woods that as I sat on my log, I began to realize that I could hear the snowflakes sifting down from the sky and landing on the top of my hard-hat.
I took my hat off. At first I heard only absolute silence. I could hear no sound at all. There were no animals running around and no birds chirping. Then slowly, I began to detect a gentle and quiet whisper. At least that is what I guess I would call the sound; or perhaps it would be better said, a hushed and prolonged sigh. I realized that the sound I was hearing was the hum that the snow was making as it was falling through the air and landing on the branches of the trees and on the ground. I was hearing the voices of millions of snowflakes.
This was not the falling of snow pellets or snow with a high ice concentration. When these are falling, they almost shout in comparison with the snow that was falling around me. The snowflakes that I was hearing were the gentle crystals that fell so slowly that their soft landing did not even break their delicate structure.
stellar dendrite snow flake

Just this winter I learned a new term for snow that I did not before know. This I learned from our local Rhinelander, Wisconsin TV weatherman. Snow comes in various forms. Sometimes it is almost like small pellets and sometimes even like tiny prisms (plus several other forms), but the snowflakes that I was watching as I sat on my log were dendrites. The word means tree-like. This type of snowflake is so named because the flakes are in the form of tiny crystals with branches and side branches, much like trees. The difference is that in the snowflake, all the branches and side branches have the symmetry of a perfectly formed crystal.
fernlike stellar dendrites
I thought it very fitting that these dendrites were falling among the trees and settling in their branches. I also felt that I must be very privileged to listen to their tiny voices as they fell. Were it only one snowflake or a few, I would not be able to hear them. However, with the millions falling around me, together they produced a chorus of nature that I think few people have ever taken time to hear. Perhaps you have. If so, consider yourself fortunate.

It was after what was quite a long time of listening to this chorus of the snow, that way off in the distance, I heard a crow. He was so far away and his call so faint, that in ordinary circumstances, I am not even sure if I would have noticed his cawing. However, after listening so intently to the quiet voices of the snow, his caw seemed almost startling to me. It brought me back to reality, and I realized that I was beginning to get a little cold. Time to get up and get back to work; to warm myself up if for no other reason.
At this time of year many are getting tired of the snow, and I must say that neither for me is it all dreamy moments of beauty and silence. Nevertheless, the movements of nature and of the seasons are in the hands of God. It is nice, sometimes, to take time out and enjoy what is taking place around us. Like listening to the chorus of the snowfall.

2 comments:

  1. I so enjoy your posts about working in the woods. It brings back a lot of memories for me and the "peace" that can be found in the winter woods while logging. Not so much though in the summer with mosquitoes & deer flies out to kill you or hornets in the fall when you are trying to skid out peeled popple. I learned quickly to log in the winter & find other work the rest of the year. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Scott

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  2. What a wonderful description! I feel like I was right there on the log with you. I've had a similar experience when it has snowed while deer hunting.

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