Tuesday, November 25, 2008


A few years ago I posted a short video of a fireball meteor/meteorite caught on film over Australia. Astronomy Picture of the Day has posted a new and much more recent video that blows that one out of the water. Imagine driving down the road and seeing this.

The video was caught on the camera of a police cruiser November 20th in Canada. What an unbelievable thing to capture. They are trying to figure out if it hit the ground and if so, where. It is incredible how it lights up the whole sky.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Crossing the line

We humans enjoy breaking things up and dividing them with sharp lines, day night, black and white but these are arbitrary lines we etch upon the reality of the thing. There is no line between day and night; no sharp terminus moving from east to west at 733 miles an hour as observed from space. We slide into night slowly, the sun's light fading away until no light bends around the curve of the earth by illuminating the atmosphere with faint stray rays alighting upon stratospheric clouds. The true night comes when the sun dips eighteen degrees below the horizon, then it can get no darker.

So too it is with winter, it slides in upon us. We can come up with dates on a calendar we can draw our little lines but they are merely milestone to mark the passing of time. They are hours on a clock that bring us comfort and order but they are meaningless when we stand alone in the woods confronted by the reality of seasons. This morning it became winter to me. We've been sliding toward it, the shadows growing long for months now. I've seen snowflakes in the skies here and there for more than a week now but it still was not winter, I could not feel it, I could not hear it and I could not taste it.

This morning though it was winter. I stood in the woods and I heard the wind blowing a lonely sound. There was not the familiar soft flutter of quaking aspen, there was not the warm breeze upon my face. A cold moan drove through the trees with a breathed whisper, a cold stinging white noise putting the world to sleep. In the fall there was a crackle of life left, autumnal discussions between leaves and wind. It is gone now, replaced by a cold monotone meditative drone. The trees do talk some but only a talk of cold. On this day, a solitary oak sounds out in the forest as it creaks with a lonesome song as it moves hundreds of years worth of fibers in the wind. These same trees creak in the summer but it somehow sounds different now. Lonelier and plaintive.

Gone are the bird sounds of summer. I am greeted by the solitary woodpecker who's call sounds otherworldly borne on the cold dense winter air. The call is brief, mechanical and to the point. There is no time, no energy for the bird songs that float almost languidly though the verdant green summer woods where time seems to stretch on forever. We have crossed the imagined line. I suppose it happened during the night. One day it feels like fall and the next like winter.

There are only hints of snow on the ground, pockets of fluffy water, it too is sleeping, unable to move on its own. It must obey the wind and in doing so it betrays the serpentine movements of the wind across the land. The heavy cold air moved from the north to me, it dances about my feet in spirals as if examining this bit of warmth in a cold land. It steals what heat it can then moves on. I can feel the feeble heat of the sun as it tries to warm my face. It holds power still but every day it has lost some grip. It will not gain the upper hand for yet another month at the winter solstice but just as it took months to wring and wrest the heat from the land it will take months to bring it back.

I will bide my time, I will wrap up in layer upon layer, trapping heat in insulative pockets of warmth against my skin and I will keep the wind from tearing loose my hard fought warmth stored away from summer. I will bring the sun's heat out from the core of the trees where it was transformed decades ago into fiber. I will let it burn in the fireplace while I sit on the hearth and feel the heat of the sun once again. I will venture out into this cold land and explore it as though it as the new and wondrous world that it is. A new planet has appeared out my door. I don my space suit and explore, discover, revel in my warm core as I see the transformed and transformative sometimes blinding beauty of crystalline water. I will howl at the sun dogs in the sky who watch over me in the day and I will remove my layers one by one as I slide closer and closer to an imaginary line that I will someday step over and find myself in spring.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pine Siskins

I figured there might be Pine Siskins showing up one of these days at the feeders at work but when I checked this morning there were just goldfinches on the thistle feeder. This afternoon I checked again and sure enough there was a lone pine siskin (that streaky fellow on the right) mixed in with the American Goldfinches.


Icing Over

Today at work we went down to check on the lakes. Terrapin lake appeared to have frozen over some time during the day today. We took turns throwing rocks out onto the ice to hear that wonderful ping pa pa pa pa dut dut dut dut dit dit dit di di di sound as they skittered across the ice. Here's Paul with a good throw.
Kathy walked out a few feet and thought that near the shore it was a couple of inches thick. We could see it was really thin further out.

I threw a large rock as hard as I could against the ice off the dock and didn't break through. It did produce this cool impact pattern and I noticed a cool rainbow effect along where it cracked.

We turned around to look at the deeper Mays Lake and it was completely without ice. I spotted the Tundra swans a good distance out but they were hard to see through the strong cold wind. This photo is cropped in as far as possible. There are two adults and two younger swans in this shot and there were two other swans on the opposite shore. These appear to be the same group that were on Terrapin lake last week.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It begins