Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Long nights & cold weather...

At mid December it is sometimes hard to remember we are in the later days of autumn and not truly winter. In fact the winter solstice is on December 21st this year (still several days to come) & marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. As mentioned in an earlier posting on this blog, winter weather often precedes the actual season of winter in the northern climes. Such is definitely the case when we read the headlines of this weeks news...
From the Associated Press: "More wintry weather was forecast across the nation Wednesday, with rain, snow and sleet predicted along both coasts and cold temperatures expected there and in between”.
From the L.A. Times: “Southern California may see sub-freezing temperatures”,0,5944342.story?track=rss
From the AFP: “Crews struggle to restore power in ice-covered US northeast”;_ylt=AsMhDewUMehkaoNMp4GGqjJoWrEF
From Seattle P.I. “Schools, roads closed as snow, ice move in”
In fact as I look at the national weather map for this late autumn morning the highest temperature reported across the continental United States is 79* on the southern tip of Florida. Even my ex-home state of Texas is reporting under 50* on it’s southernmost tip – and that’s cold down there!
Here, on the Kettle River, the thermometer has been hovering around zero degrees.

I recently walked outside from a warm, cozy cabin into the very early (read dark) hours of the morning and was somewhat startled at how cold it was. If you stop & think, until you are actually having the re-experience, its hard to remember exactly how cold zero degree (or less) feels on your bare skin, or breathed deep into your lungs. In those early morning moments I occasionally ask myself, 'how far could I walk, dressed just like this, before the cold stopped me?' Usually that thought provokes a shudder, especially if I've just stepped outside in my slippers & sweats to retrieve wood for the stove. I soon retreat back to my island of warmth and comfort.
A cold snap in winter weather reminds me that we are quite fragile creatures and depend on functioning support systems to be comfortable in these conditions. The above brought to mind a passage in Jack Nisbet’s MAPMAKER’S EYE, a book of David Thompson’s explorations on the Columbia Plateau. There is an except from a letter explorer Thompson wrote dated December 21, 1810 when he was winter camped along the Canoe River in what is now British Columbia, Canada. Thompson says, “I am getting tired of such constant hard journeys; for the last 20 months I have spent only barely two months under the shelter of a hut, all the rest has been in my tent, and there is little likelihood the next 12 months will be much otherwise.” David Thompson was a long way from my slippers and comfortable cabin which is now, 200 years later on the banks of the Kettle River, protecting me from the winter-like conditions.
Here are a few photographs in study of the winter weather landscape.

This lone cottonwood, draped in snow provides some framing of the cold morning river when the temperatures are below zero and the rising mists hide much of the shoreline. The promise of a cold sunrise is within the pink cloud to the west.

This image is titled WAUCONDA SNOW. Again a cold winter weather landscape. Mists rising due to the temeprature difference between the ground & very cold artic air which has moved in from the north.

ASPEN SNOW, an image captured in the Okanogan Highlands is another cold day photograph when the air is crisp, cold and invigorating. The winter landscape makes for good photography.

I'll close this posting with a photo of the 'cold' winter sun. Barely lifting above a distant ridge line and hardly able to shine through the thick clouds of December. This image is titled, TORODA MORNING as the location is Toroda Creek, NE Okanogan County, Washington state.

Thats it for now - hope your cold weather support systems are working smoothly this morning. Mine are. And remember – winter doesn’t actually start for a few more days…


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