Monday, November 28, 2016

Early ice out? #phenology

The wind is howling, swirling through the trees, making them look like enraged Ents waving their arms. Rain is pouring down. What little snow was left on the ground is disappearing rapidly. All in all, it feels more like mid-March than the end of November in Minnesota.

ice forming, early December 2015
ice forming, early December 2015
Photo by J. Harrington

I checked my phenology reference books, and this is the time of year when lakes should [used to] be freezing over and ice [used to] start to thicken enough for the adventurous to contemplate ice fishing and placing ice houses. Ice cover has come and gone, and will no doubt come again, on local waters. Unless your ice house has pontoon floats, plan on leaving it in the yard for awhile yet this year.

snow cover, early December 2013
snow cover, early December 2013
Photo by J. Harrington

The odds are still pretty high that we'll have a white Christmas, and I'm not complaining that all this precipitation isn't snow. It is unusual to get rain at this time of year. At least it used to be. More and more we get weather I associate with Missouri. It's almost as if something's going on with the climate, like maybe it's warming? Or, perhaps it's only that we're all dumb enough to be bamboozled by the Chinese, so they can steal all our manufacturing jobs. Yeah, that must be it. If we were smart enough to listen to the climate scientists instead of the Chinese... oh, wait!

This year I'm planning on staying up late enough on Christmas Eve to catch Santa and find out what's really going on at the North Pole. Santa still lives at the North Pole, doesn't he? He wasn't hit by a ship or anything, was he?

Snow Signs


By Charles Tomlinson


They say it is waiting for more, the snow
Shrunk up to the shadow-line of walls
In an arctic smouldering, an unclean salt,
And will not go until the frost returns
Sharpening the stars, and the fresh snow falls
Piling its drifts in scallops, furls. I say
Snow has left its own white geometry
To measure out for the eye the way
The land may lie where a too cursory reading
Discovers only dip and incline leading
To incline, dip, and misses the fortuitous
Full variety a hillside spreads for us:
It is written here in sign and exclamation,
Touched-in contour and chalk-followed fold,
Lines and circles finding their completion
In figures less certain, figures that yet take hold
On features that would stay hidden but for them:
Walking, we waken these at every turn,
Waken ourselves, so that our walking seems
To rouse some massive sleeper out of winter dreams
Whose stretching startles the whole land into life,
As if it were us the cold, keen signs were seeking
To pleasure and remeasure, repossess
With a sense in the gathered coldness of heat and height.
Well, if it's for more the snow is waiting
To claim back into disguisal overnight,
As though it were promising a protection
From all it has transfigured, scored and bared,
Now we shall know the force of what resurrection
Outwaits the simplification of the snow.

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