What a severe yet master artist old Winter is.... No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel. ~John Burroughs, "The Snow-Walkers," 1866
“The Snow-Walkers” is an essay examining the coldest time of the year. John Burroughs contrasts winter to our warmer seasons. He looks closely at the beautiful and abundant life that may remain hidden to the uninterested observer.
Spring and summer offer a beauty that is easy to see. Bright flowers and lush lawns are easy on the eyes. It’s nice to think about our gardens and backyards when we’re dealing with the sloppy side of winter, isn't’ it?
However; don’t overlook the abstract beauty that winter exposes! The patterns in the branching of a japanese maple can be stunning! The swaying golden blades of an ornamental grass are mesmerizing! Look closely at the contrast between light and dark as white snow wraps around the black bark of a sugar maple tree. Consider the absence of color in our landscape right now…. Have you ever wondered why black and white photographs reach into the depths of our hearts and souls? Contrast.
Contrast can be a beautiful thing! A colorful palette is always more effective when combined with a balanced contrasting background. Think of winter in the same way; a backdrop to set the balance of our seasons against. The moments of perfection we can see in the winter will always be with us, gently setting the stage for the beauty that our colorful seasons will add.
Spring is right around the corner! We’ll soon be able to witness nature awakening day by day… sometimes even hour by hour. We can make it through the melting ice and the slushy snow if we remember the beautiful parts about winter in northern Indiana! As Burroughs reflected ‘the [snow] drifts… earth stained and weather worn’ will be a fleeting moment. They’ll be here one day and gone the next. Then we can study the contrast of the sugar maples’ bark against the young bright green foliage of a new season! Enjoy the transition, and then welcome spring with open arms.
“But with March our interest in [winter] begins to decline. Vague rumors are afloat in the air of a great and coming change. We are eager for Winter to be gone, since he, too, is fugitive and cannot keep his place. Invisible hands deface his icy statuary; his chisel has lost its cunning. The drifts, so pure and exquisite, are now earth-stained and weather-worn, - the flutes and scallops, and fine, firm lines, all gone; and what was a grace and an ornament to the hills is now a disfiguration. Like worn and unwashed linen appear the remains of that spotless robe with which he clothed the world as his bride. ~John Burroughs”, "The Snow-Walkers," 1866