We drove out west of the Twin Cities today, to Jenny’s brother in Waconia. It would’ve been easy to focus on all the problems around us – too much sprawl, too much traffic, but my father-in-law was with us, and he (a) rides his bike all over, and (b) hangs out with naturalists, so it was a treat.

“See that old watertower? There’s an osprey nest on top.” A messy tuft of branches gives it away.

“That trail will take you down around Lake Minnewashta.” Curving off to the left, it quickly disappears in the weeds.

It’s a day on the edge, almost-but-not-quite winter. Lakes turn deep blue as they slowly turn to ice, dried reeds like sand round their shores. A ruddy brown red-tailed hawk hops in slow motion along the side of the road before taking to the air.

In the city, in the suburbs, it’s hard to get past all the asphalt and leaf-blowers to the real changes of the season. Out here, I see countless textures: the waxy sheen of flattened grass, silvery seed-heads, nodding stalks; a grey mesh of branches topped with small knolls of rusty, corrugated oaks; even, still, an occasional farm of rumpled black dirt and mown hayfields, their hay rolled tightly into loaves.

The colors I see are a rich palette of ripened yellows and golds, tan and brown, burnished by a year of sun and rain and heat and cold and wind.