Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ice Storm

Suffering through a snow and ice storm is inconvenient at best and often very dangerous, as we Kentuckians are finding out. However, aesthetically speaking, it is a wondrous thing to behold, particularly if you don't have a tree knifing through your roof and you're not freezing to death. For a day before the snow turned to ice, the birds in my backyard were obviously fueling up. All day, cardinals, house finches, juncos, and sparrows clustered around the feeders. My goldfinch feeder, full of nyjer thistle seed, usually lasts weeks. It was drained within a day and a half. Everytime I looked outside three or four would be fighting over the two perches on the tube. In the picture, two of them sit on the fence, waiting their turn, flanked by house sparrows.

A dead, brown landscape transformed overnight into a glittering, crystalline world, and the birds disappeared. Individual magnolia leaves, coppery-brown, suspend in their own glass boxes like bees caught in amber, but perfectly clear, every vein visible. A heavily beaded dogwood stands against a Wedgewood blue sky, bare barberry hedges drip with diamonds, the holly leaf's sharp points grow into claws of ice. Every surface is brilliant with refracted light and icicles lengthen into daggers and spears, dripping off every roof and gable. The first night of the storm, at 2:30 in the morning, I awakened to the first crash of limbs falling in the neighbor's yard. All night and into the next day you could stand on the porch and listen to cracking, groaning branches giving way and exploding into the surface of ice-crusted snow as if a giant beast was lumbering though a forest.

Today, it is sunny and clear, and the melting has begun. There is a continual drip, slide, crash, and sizzle. Maybe the birds will venture back out from their hiding places.

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