Yep, still winter.


Often by now there are snowdrops and crocuses blooming in this bed.  Wild garlic would be all over the place, and chickweed would be starting its creep to cover everything.  I suspect little is happening under this mound, however.  Anyway, what I can’t see can’t affect my mood.

I did see a robin yesterday.  But, as the saying goes, one robin does not make a spring.  One warm day won’t let me put away the mittens and snow shovel.  On the other hand, equinox is less than a month off, and the sun is definitely stronger.  With the snow pack reducing rapidly to melt and sublimation, I hope to start back into normal walking routine along the water early this week.

Probably a reflection of how warm the oceans are becoming that in spite of what seems to be a brutally cold winter the “Huntington harbor icepack” is still basically nonexistent.  There were never polar bears nor walruses sunning themselves here, but even twenty years ago thick plates of frozen snow and water would jam all the way to the inlet from shore to shore.  In the real old days, my wife claims, people would walk from one side to the other.

Well, all I can do today is to appreciate what is.  There is wonderful beauty in the blue sky, buffleheads float and dive chaotically out near the channel, trees have withstood the storms magnificently.  Warmly wrapped, I can appreciate the near silence and solitude until another angry driver, driven nearly mad by the narrow lanes and magically appearing potholes, careens around the corner paying no heed to me nor anything else in frantic need to get wherever they must go.

The Huntington Town Glacier usually appears sometime in December at the Mill Dam parking lot, and sometimes lasts through the end of April.  All the snow from our increasingly paved environs has to go somewhere, after all, and some misguided soul in some environmental agency has probably decided it is wrong to just dump it into the harbor _ even though it all goes right there when it melts anyway.
Another example of how dependent we are on energy.  Trucks run all day carrying loads scooped up by other trucks.  Loaders run sporadically lifting the dumped mass as high as possible.  I’m sure the ospreys don’t quite know what to make of it.  Maybe it was better in the olden days _ yet I don’t hear anyone clamoring to be cooped up inside for weeks at a time _ heck, the brickbats start to fly if anyone’s tight hourly schedule is messed up a bit.


A fresh dusting of snow obscures the horizon and coats the ice.  The reeds somehow have remained fluffy-looking through all of this and are only more attractive when frosted.  I stand here in my extremely warm clothes and marvel at how a change of a mere forty or so degrees Fahrenheit can so completely change the surface appearance of our world.

Science claims to be discovering other watery planets around other stars, and we immediately think they would be like Earth.  After many years of enjoying science fiction and speculation, I have come to believe that our planet is unique, not just because of water but from the moon, tides, and seasons.  I may grudgingly concede some form of life elsewhere is possible, but I think we are alone in intelligence.  The tragedy is that we are unheedingly squandering it all.

Abstract patterns can create beauty anywhere.  I always enjoy watching new photographers and painters who suddenly discover how much there is to see when they take the time to look.  We usually have so much on our mind that we ignore the commonplace an
d quickly label things as “brush by side of road” if, in fact, we notice it at all in our constant haste to be elsewhere.

It’s not necessary for beauty to claim to be perfect, the most, the best.  The charms of these tangled branches against frozen snow are unique to this time and place, a visual treat only if we are in the right mood.  The plant itself is simply responding to historic Darwinian imperative, growing as best it can in the margins left to it by civilization.  The snow doesn’t even have that rationale.  It takes consciousness to put it all together into some alternative, pleasurable pattern or narrative that we label beauty.

There’s a quiet beauty many days from certain hidden vantage points, especially if you can ignore the ten degree wind sweeping down the harbor behind me.  You’d expect the natural world to somehow react more dramatically to cold _ and immediate ice freeze up, trees freezing and exploding, dead birds dropping from the sky from exposure.  None of that happens.  We generate hysteria within.

The blues interlaced with bare brown branches are marvelous.  Harbor water is for once crystal clear.  Usually it can all be enjoyed in what has become very unusual quiet _ no leaf blowers, no chain saws, no dogs barking on the beach.  I’m not foolish enough to claim I like it better than other seasons, but I strive to experience winter as more than a hiatus and contrast to the rest of the year.


A brief colorful digression to the lovely camellia greenhouses of the Planting Fields Arboretum state park in Oyster Bay.  All in bloom in February and early March _ although somewhat behind schedule this year along with everything else.  The girder framework of the greenhouse is fascinating in itself, redolent of fabled English structures like the Crystal Palace or New York Penn Station, destroyed by the capitalist barbarian hordes.

Some of the families of great wealth in olden times were truly in love with their creations, and took pains to preserve it and pass it on to future generations to be enjoyed.  Many of the wonderful places on Long Island  were created in that way.  Today it seems all wealth is to be cascaded and piled and burned in a great potlatch with no concern for anyone except the fortunate egoists who have accumulated it.  Does anyone believe any of the “great houses” in, for example, the Hamptons will please or inspire anyone fifty years from now?  Well, for the moment, at least, we all have this, and for the moment it is more than enough.

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