Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

Waterforms

It is just not a very nice time of year to be a little tree growing out of a cliff.

Ice laden cedar tree.

Not a very nice time at all.

It makes me very happy that people can walk around. I sometimes think about being a tiny seed sailing on the wind, landing in a mountain stream, washing down the hillside, landing in a little crevice in the side of a cliff, and having to make the best of it right there.

Small alder tree wearing an ice coat.

Some trees seem to thrive in incredibly harsh circumstances. I’m not as tough as a tree. I can walk over and stand next to the heater. Actually there is a worn out spot on the floor in front of the heater.  There might be a hot chocolate stain in front of that wear spot, too.

Snow-clad mountaintop trees.

I am fascinated by water in its many forms. Darn good thing, that, since I live in a temperate rainforest. The water doesn’t lock up as ice all winter; it is ever-changing.

It can be maddening when the roads are wet ice, or when slushy piles freeze into solid lumps that are impossible to shovel away. Last week there were temperatures in the teens (-9 C) and this week it will get up to 40 degrees (4 C). Next week who knows? Winter will continue for three more months and the hillsides will alternate between white and green. Yards may have snow angels and snowmen one week and slush covered moss the next.

Fern-like hoarfrost.

Hoarfrost crystal

At 1:30 a.m. the other night I suddenly had to go outside in 18 degree weather and take frost pictures. In my slippers. The hoarfrost had grown again, and some of the crystals were and inch and a half tall (4cm). It was a garden of sparkly ferns calling me away from the heater. Clouds had just covered up the moon so my flashlight illuminated a tiny part of a glittery world. I crouched by a snowbank that was covered with points of frost. How did the water know that in this temperature and humidity it was to construct this latticework? By seven in the morning there was three inches of snow covering the frost. Yesterday it warmed up enough to start raining.

Closeup of frost crystal.

The rain reminds me that the weather often makes temporary art – momentary beauty to appreciate even in a harsh season. So I stop and look at the insides of icicles.

Oh, that is so worth it.

Happy New Year, All, and may you find remarkable details in each day of 2013!

Alaska Beachcomber

A Fairy Tale

Remember the Frost Fairies? They were making wonderful creations during cold, calm weather.

Well, the weather warmed up and started raining and that is very, very bad for Frost Fairy wings. First the rain washes the delicate powdery color off of the wings. The powder reduces wing drag and without it the fairies have to flutter their wings twice as fast. After a few days of rain the fairy’s wings begin to soften, and won’t support the fast fluttering. Did you know that fairies grow new wings often? Well, at least in the rainforest of Southeast Alaska they do. When their wings start to get soggy the fairies go deep into the forest. They fly high up in the trees, then fold their wings behind themselves, and dive right down into the moss, breaking the old wings off.

Fairy wings on soft moss.

Fairy wings on soft moss.

No, it doesn’t hurt, and the fairies love being in the soft moss. They take some time to weave new clothes out of interesting lichens, sing to waterfalls, and happily dance under the trees while they grow new wings.

More discarded fairy wings.

More discarded fairy wings.

Those wings will be ready just in time for more cold weather so that the Frost Fairies can decorate your windows, kiss raindrops into snowflakes, and grow gardens of crystals.

A frost crystal garden made by the Frost Fairies after they watched cartoons through a window they were decorating.

A frost crystal garden made by the Frost Fairies after they watched cartoons through a window they were decorating.

I was in the forest shortly after the Frost Fairies dove, and I was amazed by how many of them there were. I didn't see any fairies, but I saw lots of wings. Look at their wings, still beautiful, but much too flimsy after being wet for days.

Frost fairy wings Alaska

Yes, I agree, people of lesser familiarity with the ways of fairies would tell you that these are the spent leaves of the queen’s cup lily (Clintonia uniflora), so nod when they tell you that, and then listen closely near waterfalls for the sound of Frost Fairies singing.

This has made me very aware of how little I know about Frost Fairies. If you know something about them then please share it with all of us in the comments.

Flitting merrily about,

Alaska Beachcomber

A window beautifully frosted with swirls and fans.

If you enjoy seeing frost crystals click on the links below:

 

 

 

Frost Crystals and an Afternoon Owl

Another sunny, late fall day! With a treat like that we decided to go for a walk on Etolin Island, and we walked right into winter. In the shady places the cold, still air has allowed hoarfrost to grow. Crystals and spicules have turned small valleys into fairyland. Remember the frost fairies in Fantasia? They have been at work here. When I look closely there is beauty so great and so delicate that it feels wrong to walk through the gem encrusted grass and destroy the crystals. So I took a few pictures to share with you.

Hoarfrost crystal

Hoarfrost crystal

Actually I took about eighty pictures, but frost is fickle about photos, so many of them ended up on the cutting room floor.

Beautiful frost crystal

Gem encrusted blades of grass

Gem encrusted blades of grass

One blade of grass turned into a strand of diamonds.

Walking through this wonderland, swishing along, there is soft music tinkling gently as our boots brush delicate bits of ice. Turning off of the flat, we progress slowly up the hillside through a series of Southeast Alaska muskegs, stopping to admire the work of the frost fairies in the frozen puddles and ponds.

Frost spicules and grass in a small pond

Frost spicules and grass in a small pond

The moss of the muskegs is frozen hard, and it makes for much easier walking than the usual soft, spongy surface of the bog.

Late fall frozen in place in the muskeg. Tidewater is in the background.

Late fall frozen in place in the muskeg. Tidewater is in the background.

Frost spicules adorning a goldthread leaf.

A rosette of frost spicules

A rosette of frost spicules

On the way back down the hill I am once again taking pictures of frost, face down in a frozen pond. My sweetheart whispers, “There’s an owl.” An owl? Flying around in the daytime? I may have lived here in Southeast Alaska a long time, but I have never, ever seen that! There it is, gliding on wide, silent wings, and coming right toward us! We are standing in a field of sparkling diamonds with an owl flying over to see what we were. Pure magic! The owl circles and disappears into the trees. It is easy to walk slowly now, and take in the details.

The Trusty Steed (skiff) is anchored out on the sunny, unfrozen side of the bay, and as we walk along the grassy high tide line that sharp-eyed man once again stops me and points out the owl in the grass ahead of us. It lifts noiselessly, and flies to a perch on a deadfall, then further along the beach, and around the point out of sight.

Transient
Curious short eared owl (Asio flammeus)

Curious short eared owl (Asio flammeus)

Wishing you a crystalline day,

Alaska Beachcomber

More frost crystals

I'll try to stop now...