After a brief January thaw, winter rolled back into Nahant Marsh. February blew in with a major snowstorm followed by more deep, creaking cold. The thick layer of snow, its surface written with the stories of the marsh’s inhabitants, has stayed on, preserved by day after freezing day. The welcome sun has been rising earlier and staying longer, though. The sunny days (the days we had sun anyway) eroded the snow cover to some extent, softening it a bit here and there, only to have the bitter cold freeze it hard again, night after deeply frigid night.
Those days when the clouds disappeared were indeed welcome, with skies of wide open blue, unattenuated light pouring down, not soaked in by a single leaf, flooding the land and ice with sun, the snow lit in blazing, blinding white streaked with shadows of blue. And so winter continues.
February in the marsh has been so far a month of deep, harsh winter unrelenting. As always, there is great beauty for those who dare this creaking cold. As the blank cover of snow reflects all the blinding whiteness of full sun, so too does it faithfully show all the colors in the prism tinted light of dawn and dusk.
On those mornings shrouded with freezing winter fog, that whiteness caught the light too, with whatever color the light happened to be at the moment. The small open pools are steaming again, sometimes in great clouds and sometimes in dainty wisps. Although the deep penetrating cold is hard to bear, I will miss the shifting beauty that only the ice, snow and steam can make on days like these.
It is, after all, approaching the end of February and the light is returning. One day before very much longer, the winter stillness will be broken by the trill of the returning red winged blackbirds. Already black capped chickadees and cardinals, who stay on hanging tough all winter, are singing to greet the expanding light.
March will be here soon, and while it can still be quite cold and icy, the leading birds of the spring migration arrive in March. They push the edge of the ice, following it as it retreats before the growing light and warmth. The last of the subzero days may have already passed—or most of them anyway. Better bundle up warm and get out there to play in the snow while you can.