This year the winter solstice is the coldest, shortest, whitest, bluest day of the year. This morning it was only 8ºF, -13ºC. When it is this cold, if you have any doubt as to if you are alive or not, all you have to do is step outside. The cold will immediately slap all the nonsense out of your brain. Clarity will return instantly.
Much of the pond is frozen. The pump is keeping a small wading area free of ice. This winter there are over 50 wood ducks on the pond. We’ve never had that many wood ducks before. Last year there were about a dozen which spent much of the winter and early spring here. Somehow they told other wood ducks what a great time they had.
The sky is so blue today. Should I call it solstice blue? Frozen blue? After-the-snow blue? Coldest, shortest, whitest, bluest blue?
When I saw the forecast for snow, I ordered this new shovel as last year’s snow shovel was cracked. This snow shovel has an extra handle so you can use both hands to toss the snow. And it works. It didn’t take long to clear the driveway.
If it is going to snow, it does help if it is cold when it snows. If it is cold enough, the snow that falls is lighter than air and shovels without effort.
Despite it being so cold, the house is warm, the water is flowing, and there is plenty to eat. If you are warm, have food to eat, water flows when you open a faucet, and your toilet flushes, most of life’s problems are solved. The rest is icing on the cake.
It’s the darkest time of the year. Snow in the mountains and swans on the fields relieve some of the darkness. November started out very wet, but turned out being quite dry with plenty of sunshine. December is more of the same. Our current clouds and rains are forecast by Sunday to become days of sunshine with cold nights.
We did have a cold spell with heavy frosts, a light snow, and sheets of ice on the ground. But that is past and cool, wet, dreary days of gray skies burden the soul.
But even on the dreariest of days, beauty abounds. What are the physics that caused these swirling white lines to form on the ice. What mathematical formulas explain these circles and squiggles? I suppose to a mathematician the formulas are even more beautiful and haunting than the circles and squiggles. But you almost want to believe that a forest fairy took a feather in hand and drew these white lines in the ice as it formed.
And if a forest fairy drew these circles and squiggles, maybe they mean something. Maybe they are a poem or a love letter the fairy left for another fairy to read.
I always leave some apples for the winter birds to peck. Little by little they carve away at the apple. A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers are in the neighborhood. They like apples.
Pileated: “having the feathers of the top of the head elongated and conspicuous,” 1728, from Latin pileatus “capped,” from pileus “conical felt cap without a brim,” which is perhaps from Greek pilos “felt; felt hat,” also “felt shoe, felt blanket,” or they may be from a common source (somewhat similar words are found in Germanic and Slavic). Beekes calls it “an old culture word of unknown origin.” Applied in natural history to sea urchins and certain birds, notably the pileated woodpecker, a large species of North America.
The first Pileated Woodpecker I saw was in a park in Seattle on Lake Washington. The sight of that magnificent bird clinging high above the ground to the trunk of a tree enthralled me. The black, white, and red of those birds is so brilliant. And their piercing calls are so distinctive.
I don’t harp about products much, but after years of enduring gasoline powered chainsaws, I finally found a battery powered chainsaw large enough to handle the tasks I have. It’s an 18″ chainsaw from Ego. I’ve enjoyed the string trimmer they make so much that I felt comfortable getting their chainsaw.
No more needing to make gasoline and oil blends. No more dealing with yanking on a starting rope to get the thing going. The most remarkable thing is how quiet it is. With a gasoline chain saw, the roar of the engine is deafening. Even when you’re not cutting, an idling chain saw is ear shattering loud.
The only time the Ego chainsaw makes any noise is when the chain is running, and you can easily carry on a conversation with the amount of noise it makes. I used it yesterday to buck a log and it took just one job for me to see that I won’t be using a gasoline chainsaw again. This one also has a headlamp so that if you need to go out in the middle of the night to clear fallen branches or a tree, you can turn on the headlamp and see what you are cutting.