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 Bill Bernbeck
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Walkabout Journal

 First Snow

Have you ever felt something magic in the air? Is there anything that causes you to stop your task and just take it in for what it is? Does something spur your imagination into seeing a tranquility that is in itself worth contemplating? For me, that magic comes with the first snow of the season.

 Months beforehand, the stage is carefully prepared. Late summer brings in the storms that clear the air and settle the haze on the far horizon. We behold the drama of heavy clouds shrouding the skies, accenting the distances with crystal clarity. Thunderstorms are a prelude reminding us that the season is changing. Our mindset is prepared for the heartier weather to come. Summer is bidding us goodbye.

 We go into the autumn with cool nights. Extra blankets are welcome.  We have a final spectacle with the leaves changing into their autumn colors, always too brief for the beauty they display. They finally fall, and give the earth its own extra blanket.

 Late autumn winds rattle the bare tree branches.  A baleful moon silhouettes the starkness. Storm clouds are a darker gray. You can smell a cold heaviness in the atmosphere. First Snow is coming.

 If we are lucky, First Snow will come in gently, softly. It will come with big fuzzy snowflakes. We will wake to discover our world in the most dramatic change it will ever undergo. Everything is covered with a white fluff. What had been angular and sharp now has a soft white cocoon, enveloping any unevenness. The once bared tree branches now have white plum drops delicately balanced on every tip. The tops of fence posts sport funny white clown hats. Lingering leaves manage to catch and hang on to some of the snow.

Early Snow on Aspen by Bill Bernbeck

I captured “Early Snow on Aspen” on a walk with Tim, who graciously waited while I fiddled with the camera equipment.

 Walk outside and listen to the peace of the stillness. Everything in nature seems to be holding its breath while it takes in the aura of the quiet. We feel majesty all around us, and all it asks is to behold and enjoy it. Walk on the snow, and hear it resonate in a deep basso profondo crunch with each step.

 The first to herald this new world will be birds. They will flick the downy snow from their feathers and begin their reveille. Crows will sound their baritone cackles at the world’s new brightness. Jays will command attention with their screeching complaints. You might hear the modest chirp of chickadees, or the even subtler warble of a nuthatch.

Steller's Jay by Bill Bernbeck

Look at the surface of the snow, and find the imprints of your neighbors as they make their way into the day. You might see the telltale hops of squirrels as they bound to their caches for breakfast. Maybe you will see the quad pad prints of a rabbit. Perhaps even the delicate placement of a deer’s cloven hoof as it stealthily made its way to its daily browse.

A Dear in Snowy Silhouette by Bill Bernbeck

I start to think about getting out my snowshoes, even though I know that these first snows will probably melt away. Still, it makes me want to ensure that the snowshoes have had time to acclimate to the new environment.

Snowshoes by Bill Bernbeck

The wind will eventually muster, give a soft sigh, and then playfully skim the trees’ plum drops into misty white wisps. All too soon, the magic will be gone as sun and wind claim their prize from that First Snow. Its beauty and majesty may be with us for only a fleeting moment, but it is a moment we can cherish.

Bill Bernbeck
November 2011

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All images and writings Copyright Bill Bernbeck


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