Gray. Old snow, tired snow – tired of waiting for more snow, it’s hard, icy,
tightening its grip wherever it remains.

I add two more Christmas trees to my ‘corridor’ (eleven, total). I
sprinkle some corn and birdseed into it to give the chipmunks and
mice an incentive to use it.

photo: gray sky highlights

I go out again, looking for something – I don’t know what –
to give meaning to the dampness, the grayness, the lack of anything
(sunlight, warmth, color, wind, precipitation) that might spark my
interest in the landscape. Luckily, it’s not too cold – in the 20s –
so I can take my time. I look more closely, to try to find what I’ve
been missing. (This picture gives me an inkling… it looked flat and
featureless when I took it, but a little computer enhancement reveals
a motion and depth I didn’t expect.)

photo: birch snag

There’s a birch tree, dead. They die young around here – too much
moisture in the soil, I think. Their soft wood and thin bark make
them perfect snags. They’re quickly stripped of their bark and
peppered with holes, wood chips scattered on the ground.

photo: maple leaf in snow

photo: oak leaf in snow

There are leaves, also dead – a crumpled maple here, an almost-buried
oak there. And I notice a lot of pairs – weeds, leaves, thorns – especially
thorns, sharp and unforgiving. They seem harder and sharper than usual,
black against the snow.

photo: weeds in snow

photo: oak leaves in snow

photo: thorns

photo: thorns with deer hair

At the end of one branch of thorns I see a few strands of hair –
scraped from the hide of a deer, I imagine, though they look too
curly for that.

photo: moss in oak bark

At the base of one big oak, moss emerges from the snow, still green
despite subzero cold. Looking down on it I realize I’m seeing a
familiar landscape in miniature – rocky outcrops, deep ravines and
trees clinging to their sides, with roiling white water at the bottom.

photo: bird's nest in winter

Finally, at the end, I find a gem: a bird’s nest, abandoned for the
season, its residents long departed for warmer climes. It sits deep
in a young tree, just at the edge of an open marsh. The furniture is
all covered in sheets, pushed to the sides, but still it looks comfortable
– even warm. I head for home.