Snapshots from the tundra

It’s been a wild weather week in the Midwest.

Last Sunday the thermometer plunged to 25 below zero (-31.666 Celsius). As an exotic tropical import, I find this intolerable. I’ve never gotten used to my eyes freezing shut, or having my hands turn into painful, purple stumps. I’ve also never adjusted to the fact that the sun is purely ornamental.

Centennial snow 1710280 BLOG

There are some things I love, though — like the brittle sound jet engines make, as if the sky itself might crack. And I especially love the clarity. When it’s this cold, the air looks as crisp as it feels and the sky turns extra-blue.

Centennial snow 1710295 BLOG

Last Monday was unusual because some moisture managed to stay in the atmosphere — albeit as ice crystals — causing this rare “icebow” as the sun rose. Too bad I had to choose between keeping an appointment and getting a decent photo. (I kept the appointment.)


Less than a week later, on Christmas day, we had proper thunderstorms with lightning and torrential downpours. And today the wind was gusting so fiercely that taking the trash out felt like walking into a leaf-blower — but not in a good way.

And what might tomorrow bring? That’s anyone’s guess. A plague of frogs, perhaps, or scattered meteors.

I’ll keep you posted.


    • I will indeed keep my camera close, Patti — because otherwise the batteries freeze! 😉 Thank you so much for stopping by.

    • Even if I spend the rest of my life here I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the eyelid thing, Tasha. 🙂 But thank you so much for the encouraging words! I’ll try to get a recording of those jets for you next time the polar vortex rolls around. Cheers!

  1. The sights are breathtaking! I cannot imagine being that cold though I have lived in east Africa all my life and the coldest it can get is like 15 degrees Celsius, that’s too cold but maybe

    • Africa! How wonderful. Where do you live? 15 degrees Celsius is still pretty chilly! But to your point, even when the weather is miserable I think it’s *always* worth it to look for the beauty. The same goes for life … 😉
      Thank you so much for stopping by!

      • I live in Rwanda the capital city Kigali is never matter the season its very rare, the coldest part of the country is the northern province.. High altitude..volcanoes and mountain gorillas its the loveliest part of the country too, its never too hot there and the coldest is 15 degrees Celsius!

        • Thank you so much for your reply! Rwanda sounds utterly gorgeous, to hear you describe it. Thank you for making my world just a little bit bigger today …

  2. I can imagine how you feel. I spent 40 years of my life in Michigan and had cold weather and snow to deal with every year. I have been living in Florida for the past 12 years,

    • Does 40 years in Michigan count as hard labor, Misty564? 🙂 Here in Minnesota we get the bitter cold, but it seems poor Michigan is always digging out of its lake-effect snow. How are you liking Florida by comparison? Does the summer heat seem oppressive to you, or is it more tolerable than the cold? (Asking for a friend, ha ha.)

      • I spent most of my life in Michigan working in a factory. Not really hard labor. But sort of boring. I like Florida’s weather. But I do miss my family in Michigan, When I came to Florida back in 2004 I got a job working in a Wal-mart stocking shelves. Back in 2010 I was riding my bicycle home from work and was hit behind by a car, Thankfully I am alive and have been living in a nursing home. I use a wheel chair to get around in, Yes I do miss working

        • I’m so sorry to read about your accident, Misty — and sad that your family is so far away in Michigan. But what a beautiful spirit you have! I’m grateful you’re alive too. xo

    • Thank you, Terry! There aren’t many photos, because my hands get too numb and then my camera battery freezes. But I’m glad I was able to capture just a tiny slice of our winter for my blog-friends to enjoy!

    • “I’m dreaming of a foggy Christmas …” Hmm. That kind of has a ring to it, doesn’t it? Hope it was a merry one for you and yours, Jim.

    • Will you please send me instructions on how to properly dress? Because clearly I am not properly dressed. 🙂 All joking aside, I agree with you wholeheartedly that sometimes the most brutal and forbidding extremes can yield breathtaking beauty. Thank you so much for stopping by, and for taking the time to comment!

  3. I’m a transplant from Boston to Lake Champlain in northern Vermont. I sympathize as we often get what you had, except a day or two later as the prevailing winds surge from west to east. Your photos mirror your words beautifully. I deal with the extremes in a similar way and am always struck by the constant change, which is one of the many reasons I chose to live in the north east.

    • Lake Champlain! Oh, Cynthia — how beautiful. And you’re right about the constant change: As exasperating as those 40-degree temperature swings can be, living in a less moderate climate can also be exhilarating and exciting. Thank you so much for stopping by, and for taking the time to comment!

    • Between the frozen hands and the frozen camera battery, it wasn’t easy at all! But one must suffer sometimes for one’s art, yes? 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by.

  4. Your photos capture the crisp light of winter to a tee. From a safe, unseasonably warm distance, it all looks gorgeous. Like catching first sight of an overnight snowfall on Christmas Day when you look out of the window.

    Do your eyes really freeze shut? Really shut? That sounds absolutely terrifying. Do they sell tiny eye-warming gadgets where you live? Heath Robinson-style glasses with warm water in the rims. Or nano hot air fans to attach to your eyebrows.

    I’m waiting on the frog plague photos. Do you reckon they’ll hop in along the roads or fall from the sky? Or arrive in the post?

    • OH, HOW YOU MAKE ME LAUGH. Thank you for that. Your speculation on eye-warming gadgets and the precise manner of the frogs’ arrival was a balm for my weary soul. But all joking aside: My eyelids have never frozen completely shut, but on a couple of occasions my tears have mixed with mascara to form a sort of frozen tar that makes my eyelashes stick together in big clumps, hampering the normal movement of my eyelids. Not a pleasant sensation, which is why I’m now Googling “nano hot air fans to attach to your eyebrows.” Frankly, not having my eyelashes stick together is worth the risk of an eyebrow fire.

          • How about some of those Antarctic fish with the ‘anti-freeze’ proteins in their blood? Help enough of them – by setting up an Antarctic fish boudoir photography studio – and the rest, Disney-style, will be honour bound to donate drops of blood for your mascara.

            There’s a wonderful quote from Martina Havenith, the scientist who investigated the fishy anti-freeze. She says that the anti-freeze protein causes the ‘disco dance’ of water molecules to become ‘a minuet’ :

            Happy new 2017 too.

          • Don’t you love it when scientists are also poets? Thank you so much for the interesting article. I’m always astounded by the creative connections you make! May 2017 bring even more connections for you, along with happiness and good health.

          • By the way – did you have to stand in the cold for ages to capture the lovely tree shadows flowing under the bridge in your first photo? There’s stillness and moving time captured in that shot.

          • I’m glad the stillness I felt in that moment came through in the image. But the truth is that I didn’t pause long at all to capture that shot — when it’s that cold, I become quite efficient at framing the shot and opening the shutter!

  5. Anytime or anyplace where it is “below” is no place to be ……brrrrrrrrr.
    Frogs don’t live in those temps…..maybe it’ll be ….I don’t know, a plague of penguins??

  6. The first couple of replies I skimmed over all said, “I can’t imagine”. I’m one that can totally relate to those kind of temperatures. I live in central Alberta in Canada and -31C isn’t too unusual in mid-winter. Add a windchill and it gets a little silly. I loved your photo’s and description of the cold.

  7. You forgot to mention how boogers freeze crinkly and papery at twenty-five below. But then again, you’re classier than that. I love how the snowflakes change direction with each click on your site, lol! The images here are really enjoyable to me. I enjoy anything you take pictures of……

    Happy holidays, H. I follow you with great interest and look forward to your writings in 2017.

    • Aw, kind sir … you overestimate me! I assure you I am no stranger to booger (and fart) comments. But since my mom and my boss sometimes stop by here, I try to restrain myself. 🙂 Speaking of your kindness, thank you SO MUCH for your comments about my photography. I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately and I appreciate the encouragement, Jason. Happy holidays to you, too. I very much look forward to following your adventures in 2017 as well. My very best to you, as always …

  8. As I swelter in 39 degrees Celsius, where the air is so thick with humidity that one has to wade through it, your tundra shots are a welcome respite. Happy New Year to you and yours, and may the frost be with you. 🙂

    • Isn’t it a funny part of the human condition how keen we are to trade our current circumstances for the proverbial (and in this case distant) “greener pastures,” Keith? Well, I do hope those frosty shots brought at least some virtual relief from the heat and humidity. (39 Celsius! OOF.) Happy new year to you and yours as well. May our fears prove unfounded, and may our brightest hopes come true …

  9. Your photos are stunning, H, but my oh my that is cold. I’ve heard people speak reverentially about native Minnesotans. That weather is something else. I lived in Ontario, Canada till I was six, and can remember a few brutal snow storms, and that cutting cold and icy air. It almost hurts to breath. I hope things warm up sooner than later, but alas winter is just getting started, isn’t it?

    • You remember correctly, Alys: Sometimes it hurts to even breathe. But we will get through it! Already the days are getting longer, and in another three or four months the bulbs will start poking out of the ground again. It’s good to have something to look forward to! All my best to you and yours in the year ahead …

  10. Lovely pictures. I feel for you for I hate the cold. We escaped to the Riviera and last Wednesday I had a nap on the terrace, the weather was in the 70s. A few days later up North and it’s freezing temperature. Yet minus 31 Celsius … don’t even think of inviting me to Minesota 😉 below -10 Celsius I’d drop dead anyway.

    • I would never invite you to Minnesota during the winter — that is reserved only for people I don’t particularly like, ha ha. Your time on the Riviera does sound lovely, though. Especially that nap on the terrace! You really know how to live well, Yann.

  11. Such great photos – always enjoy seeing. I never thought about eyes freezing shut! I’m that much more grateful for all the “small” things (like not having that happen 😉 on this New Years morning.

    • You would make a handsome living here if you ever decided to relocate, Lara: Between the ice-related falls and the (literally) frozen body parts, there’s quite a demand for therapeutic massage in my city! 🙂 Cheers to you from the tundra.

      • “) Try a tennis ball on sore back muscles, my friend. Just avoid the spine, roll a little on the soreness or do static pressure; then stretch out the anterior torso for balance. And a foam roller, for the whole body 🙂 Great way to keep the body opened up and less sore. Just avoid acutely injured or compromised musculoskeletal areas. Hope not preachy with this! I do this stuff all week, for the last 16 years, so hard for me not to, hah. We all deserve to feel good in our bodies.

        • Preachy?! Au contraire! So very helpful, Lara. I just tried your tennis ball suggestion and it was HEAVENLY. So much so that I forgot about all the dried-on dog slobber. 😀 Thank you, thank you! You’re a wonderful healer, even from across the country.

          • Haha! I love the laughs you prompt! Glad the dog allowed your use of the tennis ball ;p If it becomes too soft, graduate to a lacrosse ball and/or golf ball. If you buy a foam roller, start with the white one; it’s softest and best to begin with. And happy not preachy! I think I overwhelm my family sometimes, haha ;p Be warm as can today, H!

          • I think your family is lucky to have you, Lara. 🙂 Thank you for the tips on additional props! It will be a while before i graduate to the golf ball, i think, but that foam roller is definitely on my birthday gift list. Take good care, and happy Monday!

    • Isn’t that ice rainbow striking? I’ve only seen it once before — and never the full arc like I did on this particular day. So although the photo isn’t exactly high art, I’m glad I was still able to pull over and get a snapshot of it. It was a pretty stunning sight.

  12. These pictures are amazing! Pure beauty! However, I do sympathize with you because I’m positively miserable in the cold. Snow and ice are pretty to look at from the window of my living room where it’s nice and toasty, lol! Thanks so much for sharing, I really enjoy your blog.

    • You are so sweet! Thank you for making my day with your kind words. Shine on, fellow “miserable in the cold” sister!

  13. Eek, that is seriously cold! I do love the dry cold of really freezing days – so much prettier and less bone-chilling than the damp cold we can get too often in Scotland’s relatively humid climate – but minus 31 suddenly makes me feel a bit of a wimp. Snow and ice-bows I love (beautiful pics), but -10C does me nicely, thank you very much. Hope you have a nice warm office and home to retreat to!

  14. I have a friend in Chicago and she was talking to me about the -20ºC… It scares me. Where I live the average temperature in the winter is about 10ºC. Your pictures are extremely beautiful, but I cannot stop thinking about your fingers when pressing the buttons and moving the lens of your camera. Anyway, let your talent go!

    • Temperatures this low really *can* be scary, because they can be literally life-threatening. But even when it’s bitterly cold like that I force myself to go outside for just a few minutes every day — both because it reinforces my connection with nature, and because it reminds me how lucky I am to have a warm home with central heating! Thank you so much for stopping by. ¡Un abrazo desde Minnesota!

    • Thank you for your kind comment, Otto. The temperatures have increased so much since I shot these photos that they now look like an alien landscape to me! Although I hate the winters here, I do think I’d miss the contrast between the seasons if I ever I moved away …

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