Thursday, December 29, 2011

Frost Whispering

It’s been an unusually mild fall and early winter so far. We had half an inch of snow a couple days before Halloween—very early for our area—but other than that the weather’s been quite warm. We’ve had some daytime temperatures as high as the 50s and 60s (Fahrenheit) even into December, and only in the last few weeks have we regularly had nights cold enough for frost.

About two weeks ago, though, a particularly heavy frost inspired me to try some winter photography both in my back yard and at Meadowside.

Due to the crazy weather, I still had dill in the garden. The volunteer seedlings that sprouted in late summer were still thriving despite the early snow and occasional hard frosts.  Now the feathery fronds were all sugared with frost and surprisingly ethereal.
Dill in December?!

I harvested some dill just a few days later; it wasn't frost-burnt at all.

Of course I had to scrape the ice off my windshield before I could hit the road. I grumbled at even this short delay, worried the frost might melt before I could get to the park.

I had to rummage through the garden shed before I found my ice scraper, more delay!

But when I reached Meadowside everything was still rimed with ice. Frost lay in a glittering cover across the grass, and crunched under my boots.

Part of the path around Meadowside's pond.

There was even a patchy skin of ice on the pond. I’m told by my family in Maine that their favorite skating pond hadn’t even had this much ice yet—their weather has been oddly mild so far too.

Not exactly skating ice.

A little clump of reeds in the middle of the water was positively furry with ice crystals.
I love the two different forms of crystal here: flat plates vs sharp spikes.

This shot makes me think of a monstrous spider crawling across the pond.

Here the whippy loops of the reeds seem almost frantic to get out of the pond.

A short hour after I arrived, the sun had cleared the treetops and sunshine began to creep across the grassy areas.  I crouched down to try to capture light shining through the frost.


As I snapped shot after shot, I started to notice a quiet crackling just at the edge of my hearing. It was a little bit like distant static, or like somebody gently crumpling a piece of plastic wrap.  I couldn’t trace the sound to any specific location, it was just whispering all around me. Then I realized perhaps I was hearing the frost start to melt, as the tiny ice crystals cracked and even detached from leaves and twigs. Wow!

The sunlight starts to hit the frosty field.

After an early-morning ice storm you can sometimes hear the ice quietly shifting and resettling on everything around you. This was like that but on a much, much smaller scale. It was totally unexpected, and if there had been anybody else at the pond I might have missed it. For that matter, if I hadn’t been holding still for so long, I might even have drowned it out with my own breathing or my own footsteps. I’ve never heard frost whisper before; I didn’t know it was even possible. It was a brief and solitary experience, but it was still the best part of my day.

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