Sunday, March 5, 2017

Cold Comfort Camera

 I've looked at snow "from both sides now, from up and down" to quote the great Joni Mitchel, but I do know snow. I grew up in Manitoba.

Huge sloppy flakes, tiny beads that sting your face, curtains of snow, drifts of snow, hard layers of city snow like prehistoric layered ice and earth, soft snow that you fall back into without fear; crystal snow that creeps with icy fingers onto your neck between your parka and your scarf; that freezes your toes in your ice skates; that burns your face, cuts deep into your wrists just above your mitts and numbs your silly nyloned legs on the way to school.


And I see it. I see how it transforms my garden, my city, my street. I long to see it more often at the lake where we spend so much of our summer. 

I know the colours of snow in light and in the dark. I know the long shadows that fall across it: clear shades of blue; dust gray, mouse brown, sun pink, green tinged, sheer frosted white, and dirty sand brown. And when it begins to melt I recognize the pockmarks than deepen in the snow that mean a thaw is at work.

I know snow's indescribable smells - early snow that smell of earth and sun - and late snow in the city with the dark moist smells of tar and sand. At the lake cottage there will be the smell pine and the echoes of mouldering leaves feeding the earth below. I've tasted snow. I've felt it, formed it and built with it. 

My memories of lake visits always start with cross country skiing in; of the cottage floor and walls covered in frost until the fire gets hot enough to warm the wood; cutting and bashing through ice for water; snowshoeing through the woods dodging clumps of snow that slide off the spruce and balsam trees onto knitted caps and shoulders, and the whap whap of it falling off our warming roof to the ground below. Most of all, the deep silence broken only now and again by hushed breezes and distant bird chirrups in the night.

Deep red the bracken; its shape is lost;
The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry,
Cold has seized the birds' wings;
Season of ice, this is my news."

-  Irish poem, 9th Century

My Street in early winter
copyright Margaret Buffie

City Garden

"Nature has undoubtedly mastered the art of 
winter gardening and even the most experienced gardener can learn from the unrestrained beauty around them."
-  Vincent A. Simeone  

"I've been a dweller on the plains,
have sighed when summer days were gone;
No more I'll sigh; for winter here
Hath gladsome gardens of his own."
-  Dorothy Wordsworth,

Garden gate
© Margaret Buffie

Still morning 
© Margaret Buffie

The arbour that separates our two gardens
© Margaret Buffie

Icicles outside my studio window, overlooking the garden
© Margaret Buffie

Iced Alyssum Flowers
© Margaret Buffie

Through my studio window - late afternoon
© Margaret Buffie

My little winter hummingbird
© Margaret Buffie

Frosted leaves
© Margaret Buffie

The snow cones of cone flowers
© Margaret Buffie

Cotoneaster berries with frozen drops of water. 
I can see myself in one of the drops
© Margaret Buffie

Sage and ladybug held in deep frost
© Margaret Buffie

Early morning snow on my veranda stairs 
leading to the street. No mailman yet, to scar the smoothness
© Margaret Buffie

Drifts of shadow waves near the river
© Margaret Buffie

Early morning visitor
© Margaret Buffie

Nature has many scenes to exhibit, and constantly draws a curtain over this part or that. She is constantly repainting the landscape and all surfaces, dressing up some scene for our entertainment. Lately we had a leafy wilderness; now bare twigs begin to prevail, and soon she will surprise us with a mantle of snow.

David Thoreau

Swathes of snow, constantly changing shades 
and movement - yet all done in complete silence. 
Margaret Buffie

Shades of crystal blue
© Margaret Buffie

Stairway fence
© Margaret Buffie

"Ski slope" in my garden
© Margaret Buffie


It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, 
the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. 
This crisp winter air is full of it. 
John Burroughs

“December's wintery breath is already clouding 
the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer's memory...”
John Geddes

Behind a frosted window I see a small creature peering in at me.
© Margaret Buffie

Another visitor waiting behind the frost,  
white shoulders gleaming.. 
© Margaret Buffie

Moon Flowers
© Margaret Buffie

Dancing Frost
© Margaret Buffie

A little forest of frost
© Margaret Buffie

Knitted frost
© Margaret Buffie

Feathered Frost with Hidden Figure
© Margaret Buffie

Early Winter at the Cabin

Balsam cast in ice-white amber
 © Margaret Buffie

Stone and Ice
© Margaret Buffie

© Margaret Buffie

A breath of wind will puff it all away
© Margaret Buffie

The log cabin in hiding
© Margaret Buffie

Going to a snow ball
© Margaret Buffie

The old dock
© Margaret Buffie

Soon the ice will come and as it 
deepens and thickens, 
it with twist its wooden back.
© Margaret Buffie

Heading out for a walk
© Margaret Buffie

Settling in 
"There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you .....  In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself."  Ruth Stout 

© Margaret Buffie

© Margaret Buffie

"Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather 
golden moments, embark upon a sentimental
journey, and enjoy every idle hour. "
John Boswell


Neighbourhood "Walks"

The shed of leaves became a cascade of red and gold and after a time the trees stood skeletal against a sky of weathered tin. The land lay bled of its colors. The nights lengthened, went darker, brightened in their clustered stars. The chilled air smelled of woodsmoke, of distances and passing time.  James Carlos Blake

Earliest snows soften the leaves
© Margaret Buffie

Hatted fence soldiers on guard
© Margaret Buffie

Garnished ice branch
© Margaret Buffie

Light but relentless snow all night long
© Margaret Buffie

The artist of winter chisels silver icicles just for me
© Margaret Buffie

Shadow me  - between two elm trunks
© Margaret Buffie

Spring is not far off

 The days are getting long, the shadows longer still. The sun is warmer on my back. My boots are dripping and damp. Spring is creeping toward me.
Margaret Buffie

© Margaret Buffie

Ending with one of my favourite quotes about winter!

Winter is the king of showmen,
Turning tree stumps into snowmen
And houses into birthday cakes
And spreading sugar over lakes.
Smooth and clean and frosty white,
The world looks good enough to bite.
That’s the season to be young,
Catching snowflakes on your tongue.
Snow is snowy when it’s snowing,
I’m sorry it’s slushy when it’s going.
~Ogden Nash


Melodye said...

Wonderful blog entry, Margaret! You helped me see snow in a new way--through your eyes, which are much kinder (wider, warmer?) than mine in the frigid cold of winter. Beautiful contemplations; gorgeous pictures.

My favorite? "Spring is creeping toward me..."

Jane B. said...

I love it all, but especially the knitted frost. Amazing.

Margaret Buffie said...

Thanks for the lovely comments. It was fun to put a few of my winter photos together.

Unknown said...

I love this blog, Margaret. The words are poetic and the photographs stunning. Being a Winnipeg girl too, it all hit home. Thanks for posting.

Margaret Buffie said...

Kristin, How nice to hear from you! I hope you are thriving! I'm glad you liked this post. Winnipegers never forget the smells, sights and feel of our white winters! xo