More than any other season of the year, winter can exact abrupt contrasts upon our senses and emotions. What this frigid interlude provides in crystallized beauty to the eye, it inevitably takes away in comfort to the touch.
It is fascinating to consider how such contrasts, though conflicted, are inseparable at the same time. Together their distinct effects inevitably meld into one commonality – transforming familiar scenes into something delightfully different with as little as one frosty sweep of the locale.
These amazing sights are scattered about everywhere, but they are not always readily seen. And like all treasures waiting to be discovered, a passing glance will not reveal their whereabouts no matter how obvious the clues are that whisper such secrets in the air.
As I have come to learn over time, winter’s discoveries are best made by going afoot and spending ample time searching amidst the frozen rime that burdens the panorama of land and sea.
During the month of January 2011, I have spent more time seeking out these simple treasures of winter locally thanks in large part to a series of winter storms and their snowy aftermath that have restricted the safety and efficiency of travel, especially for those driving forays of any distance.
Familiar places, like Marshall Point, Owls Head, Rockland, Rockport and Camden – all in nearby proximity to my home, have become frequent destinations of choice.
A recent trip to the Rockland Breakwater seemed to epitomize the notion that something familiar can appear so different.
I’ve made hundreds of trips to the breakwater over the years, and have seen the area under a variety of weather conditions, so when I stopped one particular day in late-January, nothing dramatically new seemed to jump out at me. Nonetheless, for some reason, I decided to venture out over the snow drifts anyway.
It is hard to resist the frozen solitude clinging to the massive stone wall and along the beach the breakwater befriends!
That was where I discovered a treasure-trove of wintertime secrets strewn about, all of which were undetectable from the park high above.
Here I found artistic drift patterns atop impressive snow piles and ripples of ice encasing stones on the northwest side of the breakwater, as well as a host of other delightful little discoveries of the glazed variety, but there was one discovery that proved more fascinating than the others on this day.
As I ventured further out on the beach that only hours before was underwater, I realized that the ebb tide, in its haste, had left behind the cutest little ice “patties” resting on a sopping beach of muck and mire.
These frigid patties reminded me of smooth stones in how they adorned the beach amidst rocks and tangled seaweed. The ice had floated on the fringe of high tide’s furthest reach just a tide cycle prior, but with the ebb in full control, the retreating waters delicately set the ice down until the last buoyant flows vanished beneath the field, leaving it stranded.
After spending a bit more time exploring the beach, I found my interest drawn to the top of the snow capped breakwater.
Jumping up on the massive structure, I gazed out over West Penobscot Bay toward the islands of Vinalhaven and North Haven, allowing my thoughts to race about the chilly air, before coming full circle to Rockland Harbor.
Throughout my moment of daydreaming, I marveled at how the Divine Hand allows winter’s contrasting aura to spawn an allurement and magnificence on one hand, and disdain and relentless fury on the other, all in a manner of alternating continuance.
Reflecting further, I thought of those times Providence sends winter’s majesty descending from the north on the breath of Arctic air, draping a locale with a blanket of soft white and wrapped in unbroken stillness.
Conversely, there are those times when winter’s mood seems stoked to an icy fury and anything but tranquil.
During these moments of frigid agitation, winter barrels up the coast on the shoulders of a northeast gale whose counterclockwise fury refuses to be tamed until its icy powers have been dispersed about land and sea in chaotic fashion.
Fortunately on this day, a feeling of chilly serenity filled the sun-splashed atmosphere, with thoughts of storm conditions and bitter temperatures accented by rolling sea smoke left to rule another day.
By now the sun had set over the western horizon, and with its disappearance, the moment nudged me along, for it was time to go. Before departing, I took one last glance around and did my best to soak in a seascape “dressed-up” in winter elegance.
As I completed my panoramic gaze, I felt a fonder appreciation for all those familiar things around me – and how they can appear so beautifully different if we just take the time to linger a while in their midst.
Below is a selection of wintry photos from the latter part of January 2011…