With unique light, winter still a beautiful time of year

With unique light, winter still a beautiful time of year

Even though it’s cold and missing the vibrant colors of other seasons, winter is still a beautiful time of year. In Ohio we can enjoy snow activities without having to face months of everlasting snow. Our regular snow-thaw-snow cycle includes many warmer days when the grass actually takes on a promising tinge of green, even in January and February.

Winter for me is primarily December, January and February. Although the calendar says winter ends on March 21, my spring mind-set arrives on March 1. So I like to think winter is already beyond the halfway mark.

I was curious what adjectives were most frequently used to describe winter. As you might expect, the big winners were words like dreary, drab, colorless, dull and cold. No doubt those words are part of the picture, but what about words like clear, cozy, glistening, sparkling and ice-kissed?

A real bonus of winter that is often overlooked is our ability to see the delicate structures of the trees around us. Trees in winter have a unique beauty. That lovely summer greenery is fastened on a magnificent superstructure that is only visible in winter.

As you take a walk this winter, look for some older trees that have grown without pruning. Notice how the branches may naturally form symmetrical patterns and rounded shapes. I constantly marvel at how tree branches grow in such a precise way to form the gentle curves and domes that fill with leaves in the summer and produce the unique looks associated with each species. For me, that is a miracle.

Look for the battle scars too — evidence of disease or decades-old storm damage. It’s amazing how a lightning strike can almost split a tree in half, yet it can continue growing. Exposed branches reveal squirrels’ nests at dizzying heights and birds’ nests that were hidden in the leaves. We can only imagine the life that is resting on, within and under a tree in winter.

January light

But the real gift of winter is its unique light. As you take your winter walk, notice the light. Often we are so hunkered down at this time of year that we don’t notice the beauty of nature’s winter illumination. As the winter sun shines at a low angle and spends less time above the horizon, the light we see takes on a unique look.

I was curious how people who work every day in nature might describe the light at this time of year. I contacted several of my naturalist friends and asked them, “What types of light are especially unique to the winter months and are especially meaningful or pleasing to you?”

Their responses were both practical and profound. I hope their words may help you to enjoy winter in a new light.

“When I think about winter light, I think about the colors white, grey, clear crisp blue and wheat-tan, bedecked with sparkle-crystals. I love the long shadows winter blesses us with.”

“I love how the white snow gets slight blue shades, but most of all my favorite time is a cold, clear winter sky with a bright full moon and the light reflecting off of a new blanket of snow and then the moon shadows of the trees undulating over the drifts.”

“From a literal sense, winter is the best time of year to do stargazing.”

“I love how the sun, at the right angle, makes the snow look like diamonds. Photos can never do that justice. I'm easily distracted by shiny things.”

“For me, I love the soft, sort of eggshelly quality of winter light. It makes the whole world look soft, like a Bateman painting. Oh, and I also really love the idea that in winter the world really is shades of grey.”

“Winter sunrises and sunsets, which can provide some startling color in an otherwise drab or monochromatic landscape, the long shadows resulting from the low angle of the sun, the myriad moods of winter light from bright, crisp to "gauzy," foggy, snowy days to darker brooding days. Winter light (especially the gauzy soft type) inspires or triggers in me a level of introspection/reflection.”

“The dull winter light begins to crack through the harshness of the season to the promise of increased bright light and warmth.”

Enjoy the light. Enjoy the season!

Email Herb Broda at 4nature.notebook@gmail.com.

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