Driving over the crest of a tall hill, the road drops steeply down and out of sight around a curve, a vista opens out across the valley, winter sunlight streams from a crystal blue sky, bare trees look black against the snow covered ground, their long thin grey shadows slanting across the forest floor. The horizon is dominated by a mountain ridge across the way, half way up there is a snow line, it reminds me of seeing snow line up high on summer trips through the Rockies in Colorado and of how snow line would oscillate up and down the distant peaks the winter I spent in Portland, Oregon all those years ago. Reminiscing startles to a halt when science kicks in, how can I see a snow line when there is snow at my present elevation? I take a more scrutinizing look at the mountain ridge and realize that I am looking at probably a frost line or frozen precipitation line of some sort. Although there is snow cover all the way down in the valley floor, the trees up top are covered in a frozen layer that is gleaming white in the slanting winter sunshine. The trees below that elevation do not have a coating of ice or frost, so they are dark and black against the ground. Above there, all the branches are coated in a frosty icing, blending into the snow covered ground giving the illusion of a snow line. A visual representation of the temperature gradient as elevation changes! Mother Nature is freaking awesome!
Driving through town after dark, snow covering the tree branches and shrubberies. Christmas lights cheerfully aglow on people’s houses and in their yards. When the snow covers a bush with lights on it, the colors shine through the snow as a muted glow, a circle of soft radiant light, emanating from the depths of the snow. Gone are the individual bright sparks of colored bulbs, replaced with hazy spheres of glowing color, like mystical orbs, or fairy lights in the forest. The first time I saw Christmas lights under the snow, I didn’t realize it was a pretty accident, but thought it was a new fangled light display. Silly me! Mother Nature wins again!
Had a check to deposit, and errands to do, so I drove down the mountain stopping at the bank chain along the way. It is frigid today, didn’t want to get out of the car, so went through the drive through (not something I usually do). As I drove behind the building, I looked out over the field across the highway and right there front and center was a Bald Eagle majestically hovering on the air currents, white head and tail flashing bright in the winter sunlight. Stopping the car, I watched this eagle soar and dip searching for prey. I watched it until it was nothing put a distant unidentifiable speck in the blue sky. I thought of saying something to the teller, then realized that they would never have seen it, because the window faces the parking lot, not the fields. Oh well, my little secret bald Eagle flying over Cairo, NY.
We are driving down a long lonely stretch of state road, through open snow covered fields and rolling hills. There is a thin translucent cloud layer in the uppermost atmosphere. Sunlight is muted and hazy, but the burning silver orb is too bright for the naked eye. Glancing out the window, I notice a partial rainbow like apparition above the sun. Putting on polarized sunglasses, I look closer and see there is indeed a thin ribbon of rainbow all the way around the sun. This cold snow world is going to get some more snow! The sunlight is refracting off ice crystals to make that faint rainbow circle. I watch this phenomena for miles as we travel. Some time later, I realize the sun now has a sun dog on either side! One big sun in the middle and two smaller brilliantly blinding “suns” on the horizontal axis in line with the rainbow ribbon. As our position changed in relation to the sun’s position in the sky, the sun dogs appeared. This is an amazing universe!
Driving down our road, the sky is bright, but the autumn sun has only just topped the hill behind the house, sending gleaming sunlight into the cold blue shadows of the yard. The long grass is coated with the thinnest layer of frost. In the shadows it looks pale blueish white with the green of the grass showing through. In the sunny spots it has already melted, making the wet grass vibrant against the leafless brown forested hill. But where the streaming sunbeams have only just newly touched the ground, the frost is glittering, sparkling, twinkling, tiny glimmers of iridescent light glistening as cold ice crystal sparks to life at the end of each blade of grass. It’s last brilliant miniature starburst before melting away.
On our way home, my husband driving, me sitting in the passenger seat. We are passing through mostly open rolling hills of farmland, a few scattered houses, barns, and dilapidated out buildings. Here and there are stands of leafless trees standing like dark sentinels outlined against the brighter sky. The sun has set below the dark purple blue black distant mountains on the horizon. Most of the sky is covered in a high thin layer of mottled clouds. In the west where the sun disappeared is a clear band of once blue but now glowing bright yellow orange, burning a fine line edge where the cloud starts a blinding golden orange. From there the colors radiate outward across the whole cloud bank cover most of the visible sky overhead. The western area is deep deep red orange spreading and shifting hue to pretty in pink over in the south east. These colors stream out in wide bands, with thinner layers of bruised purple and dark grey in between. As we drive, black images are silhouetted against the immense expanse of sunset colors; houses an other structures, trees with leafless branches, hillsides. As time passes, the eastern sky fades to darkness, but the western sky doesn’t give up easily, night has a fierce struggle claiming the sky from the intense colors. Even after full dark has fallen, there is a faint red glow where the sun fell out of sight. My husband and I got to watch the whole event as we drove through the thickening darkness, and into the glorious orange sunset.
Driving near Greenville, headed for home. We are traveling through rolling hills and flatland with the escarpment of the Catskill Mountains getting ever closer. They are a massive undulating solid dark blue black presence on the horizon. Here it’s a mostly cloudy day, struggling sunbeams overcome by cloud shadow on this overcast grey day. But over the mountains are roiling angry clouds, vengeful biting wind, dark grey mist of distant rain connecting sky and rock on the horizon. While we move along the highway, I watch the turmoil exploding over the Catskills, too cold for lightening, but impressive and dramatic, black and grey clouds letting loose on the mountaintops.