Being outdoors in Wisconsin’s winter elements is not for the weak, many would suggest. So why engage in it? Why freeze and become soiled and bruised?
Maybe we’re fools venturing out when weather is inclement and we don’t have to be exposed to this extreme cold, freezing rain, sleet, heavy snow, and blizzard-like conditions.
But there is another nature to see, something rarely seen during other seasons. Ice-coated limbs talk back to the wind. When the sun rises, everything shimmers as though it were summer rain that fell. Skinny objects triple their diameters, encased in an icy tomb, only to lose weight after reaching beyond a breaking point or when the sun hastens sublimation, going from solid ice to water vapor without even pausing for the liquid stage.
There are some advantages, however chancy, at times. When else can we see every limb, twig, dried leaf, evergreen needle, and stem prickle coated and decorated as though it was their final hurrah?
And sometimes it is just that. Marcescent oaks, mostly reds and a few white oaks hang onto their leaves well into winter. Here’s where frost and freezing rain cling to rounded or spiny margins, again as though there is no tomorrow.
These leaves have seen their last tomorrow months earlier. This little-understood phenomenon has them clinging to hang tight, many times until the new buds expand and almost push the dead leaves away, just before providing one last color contrast with winter.
These freeze-dried packages of tissue are most useful as more tender parcels of energy than woody twigs for white-tailed deer who do not have to dig through snow to find them.
The problem is digestion requires valuable energy to warm the material making it fit to fuel the microorganisms in stomach’s compartments.
Other margins, edges, and pointy surfaces also collect decorative spines and similar protrusions. Wind helps to make winter storm decorations one-sided, as though the moisture is being blown past a vine, twig, prickle or wire, pointing in the direction the wind is moving.
More calm days bring protrusions and pointed ice in a more three-dimensional array.
As we marvel momentarily at frost, fields of snow domes, coated everythings, and listen to the wind and dormant vegetation talk back, a natural urge is to capture this chilled utopia for reference knowing it is infrequent.
But cameras only come close capturing what we’ve experienced, and then it is only our vision part. What about feel and sound, then combining it all with flimsy whiffs and imaginary palates?
Our maneuvering about in this winter world requires caution. We likely need at least a mask, gloves (thin enough to be able to focus and shoot), woolens and layers, and metal foot-grippers.
Was it worth it? Answering that is easy but only to one’s self.
Jerry Davis can be reached at email@example.com.