Snapshots from the Big Thaw

The past week has brought a palpable shift toward spring to Minnesota.

Yes, it’s still snowing. But instead of plunging below zero after each snowstorm — as is typical between late December and February — now we’re inching above freezing during the day. This has enticed me to spend a lot more time outside.

Last Saturday morning, the sun still seemed mostly ornamental amid the haze.

Ineffective sun 1820029 BLOG

I thought of my mom’s dearest friend, May, who during an ill-advised winter visit from Mexico once declared Minnesota to be “the vivid image of desolation.”

Snowy field 1820048 BLOG

By that evening we were again in full-on whiteout mode as yet another snowstorm piled yet another six inches onto the roads. During our drive home from the grocery store, Esteban obliged my compulsion to MUST DOCUMENT EVERY WAKING MOMENT by fishing my phone out of my purse and taking this photo.

Smowy drive IMG_7903 CR BLOG

“What happens to all of that snow?” you may wonder. Why, it gets plowed into the parking lot of my local Target store. The tree in the background gives you an idea of Mount Target’s scale.

Mount Target 1820605 BLOG

But on Sunday I awoke to a whole new world. Yes, the snow was still knee-deep …

Knee deep in snow 1820216 BLOG

… and I still needed mittens. (This photo was an accident. I held up my hand to reset my camera’s auto-focus, but ended up with a finger selfie by mistake.)

Hand in woods 1820327 BLOG

*Ahem.* As I was saying, Sunday was different.

Snowy field 1820106 BLOG

Snowy field 1820122 BLOG

Snowy field 1820204 BLOG

I knew the snow on the trees wouldn’t last, so I walked as quickly as my stubby legs would allow in knee-deep snow.

Snowy path 1820180 BLOG

That’s how I got a closer look at how delicately and precariously the snow was balanced on the branches.

Snowcap 1820480 BLOG

Those branches were once again bare as last night’s huge full moon rose in the east, casting its reflection on the snow.

Full moon 1820673 CC BLOG

The day’s dying light also was reflected in the snow …

Sunset 1820721 BLOG

… but when I looked more closely at the warm glow behind my favorite oak tree, I could almost imagine the crickets singing one of our long summer sunsets to bed.

Oak sunset 1820630 CR BLOG

Bring on the Big Thaw.


  1. Absolutely stunning shots. Maybe it’s my Canadian and Minnesotan youth, but those winters no matter how desolate bring back wonderful memories. And I love how spring hits so hard and fast — before you know it, it’ll be time for shorts! 😀

    • Thank you for your kind words, Mel. I agree with you 100%: I would miss the winters too, if I moved away! Even being here in the thick of it I have wistful memories sometimes of skiing with my family in the woods behind our home when I was growing up. But what’s this about shorts? NOOOOO! I’ll need at least three more months of snowy hikes before I’m ready for shorts, I fear. 😉

  2. Even though I am one of winter’s bigger fans, I am ready for a change.

    Whatever else may be said of Minnesota, it knows how to do winter, full stop. I am far enough South in Indiana that it often cannot decide whether it is going to do winter or whether it is going to stay in late fall or early spring mode. I like a State that can make up its mind!

    • Ah, yes … I know these sputtery “tweener” days of which you speak, JP, and I agree they can be maddening. But I hope I haven’t given you the impression that Minnesota has officially declared a full stop on winter. Until I’ve spent my first evening in the basement hiding from a tornado, I won’t be fully confident that the snow is truly behind us. 🙂

    • Any photographic compliments from you are high praise indeed, Jim — thank you! And yes, there will be more. 🙂

    • Isn’t it wonderful to be able to go outside again without (a) scaling huge snowbanks and (b) having vital limbs freeze off? And soon we’ll be sitting on the outdoor patio when we meet for dinner. Now, THAT will be something I’ll look forward to! Thank you so much for stopping by, Tom.

  3. We lost all the snow where I live. The past week has been positively balmy….for February. I went out without a jacket or toque on Wednesday.
    We were expecting a snow storm last night, but it doesn’t seem to have materialized. Weather forecasters got it wrong–how often does that happen?
    Your pictures are beautiful. I especially love the one with the moon (third last picture).

    • It’s kind of weird how winter seems to be falling apart earlier than usual for us — and yet it’s snowing in Rome. IN ROME, Anthony! If that’s not a sign of the Apocalypse, I don’t know what is. But thank you very much for stopping by, and for your kind words. I appreciate it!

  4. I LOVE the day after a big snow storm, when the sun is bright, and everything seems so fresh and new. Snow on branches are some of my favorite pictures to take and I love the ones you captured! I hope it begins to thaw soon though! I am going back to NH in a couple weeks and not looking forward to it, as it will be cold AND they have a ton of snow still 😦 The “Big Thaw” needs to happen! 🙂 ❤

    • I wouldn’t think a bit of NH weather would be any match for an intrepid outdoorslady as yourself! Just the same, I do hope they’ll have enough of a thaw by the time you get there that you’ll be able to focus more on seeing friends and family than on adding and removing layers, lol. 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by!

  5. Your photos are gorgeous. I especially love the ones of the snow crystals precariously balanced on the buds.

    Having grown up on a farm in South Dakota, I can still remember the joy of the first real ‘melt,’ when you still needed a coat because the wind was cold, but the sun was shining off the clear water trickling down the hill from the slowly melting piles.

    There’s something about mud pulling at your boots that makes me smile!

    Now I’m stuck in Texas where we go from ‘sort of a winter’ to ‘summer’ in one day. I really miss spring…my favorite season!

    • Mud pulling at your boots … isn’t it funny the things we miss when we move to a new climate? 🙂 I’m happy and honored that to share at least a virtual “big thaw” with you. Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your kind words!

  6. A beautiful photo essay. The UK has had a rare winter storm this week but my county – West Sussex – seems to have been the one area of the country that got the least snow – barely an inch or perhaps two. I suppose we should be grateful in some ways, but I feel I have missed out in many ways including photographically.

    • Ah, Andy … I’m sorry you missed out on the bounty of snow this year. Would you like me to mail you some? 🙂 All joking aside, I know from visiting your blog that you’ve certainly made lemonade with the lemons nature has given you this year, speaking metaphorically and photographically. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you for a snowier winter next year! Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your kind words.

  7. Coming from Norway I have enough winter in me, but we do not have phrases like «the vivid image of desolation.» Words that’ll make a man cry. Good work on the pictures, I sure do miss good old MN, studied up in Moorehead for a year (go cobbers…)

    • Having lived and studied in Moorhead places you among the toughest and hardiest of MInnesotans, so hats off to you! But I imagine winters in Norway are even tougher because of the darkness. (It’s the darkness that always gets to me, and you have even more of it.) I hope you’re seeing the first signs of spring too in your corner of the world, though. My best to you, and thank you for the kind words!

  8. Though it’s not obviously the prettiest photograph here, my favourite is the third down. Love the simplicity and how it’s bleak and beautiful in equal measure.

    • I love that photo too, Dan! My husband did a masterful job of capturing the beautiful stillness of the scene. Thank you so much for stopping by. I appreciate your kind comment!

      • Sorry Heide, I thought it was your photo – I see now you said “Esteban obliged”. Love that disappearing line of trees…

        Can I offer some feedback on your layout? Feel free to ignore it completely! It’s just that even on my MacBook (15″ screen) the central white column is really narrow, and then within that, only maybe three quarters of the width is used for the main text and photos. The sidebar on the right uses up the other quarter or so, but the stuff in that is only right at the top – once you scroll down a page it’s just extra white space at the right hand side and makes the main text off centred. So of the total width of the screen, the photos and text are only using up maybe a third of the total available space.

        I’m just a big fan of photo blogs and like to see the photos at a decent size. Seeing them only maybe three inches wide just seems a waste and doesn’t do your photography the justice it deserves. Just wanted to say, hope you see it as well intentioned!

        • Hello again, Dan! I passed on your compliments to Esteban and he was very pleased. I keep encouraging him to take more photos — because as you can see, the man has quite a keen eye!

          And thank you also for your thoughtful observations on my blog’s layout. I really appreciate your compliment that you’d like to see my photos bigger, but I’m afraid I’m not sure how to make that happen without switching themes (very limited coding skills over here, dontcha know). I’ll poke around this evening and see if I can at least shrink that mostly useless left gray column, though. And failing that, perhaps I’ll list one of my web-designer friends’ help in tweaking the theme a bit. I do greatly appreciate your thoughts and feedback!

          • Yes, I had a similar thing with my blog, I just didn’t like that the photos weren’t that large, when they should be the central focus/element.

            So I sought out a new theme that was more optimised for pictures than text and went with that a few months back. Also I decided that having a left and/or right sidebar was less important to me than having one single, centred, large column for photos and text, so I moved the parts of the sidebars I wanted to keep to a footer bar. I figured that once people had read to the end of the post they would see them there anyway, rather than having to scroll right back to the top to see them.

            I don’t think there’s a perfect theme right out of the box, and personally speaking, what we want our blog to look like evolves anyway.

            I know you can change the sidebar thing quite easily in your WordPress dashboard if you click the “Customize” button next to Themes, then look in Widgets and choose what you want to show up where. I’m sure you know this!

            I would like to make my central column a little wider but I’m not sure if this can be edited within a theme – I haven’t found the setting yet!

          • Thanks for the follow-up, and for the helpful tips! I did indeed look into changing the sidebar thing but even after removing all of the widgets (not ideal for navigation and searching) the gray bars retained their static size. And sadly it doesn’t appear that the theme I’m using can be customized any further beyond that. I have another domain I’m not using so perhaps I’ll export some content there and experiment with different themes. But not until April — because I’ll soon be departing on a big trip, and want to devote my energy to that. I hope I’ll have the pleasure of your (virtual) company as I go back to Paris?

          • Oh, Paris… I went there in 2010 on my own and it holds very fond memories. Partly because it was such a big deal for me to go on my own (before that I rarely holidayed at all, had only once been abroad, and never on my own) and partly because it was to get over two relationships that kind of overlapped very messily, and to get back to myself again and find some peace and new direction.

            I just walked, photographed and wrote for three days, a taste of a simple alternative lifestyle.

            Anyway, I adored it, and what a beautiful city to photograph, even though at that time I “only” had a fairly humble Sony camera phone.

            I might have to review the photos and see if there’s anything worth sharing on my Flickr…

            Re the blog, great idea to practice on a second blog. This is in fact a great tip for anyone, get another free WordPress blog (you only need one account of course) as a kind of sandbox to test out layouts, widgets etc for your main blog…

          • I went to Paris on my own for the first time in 2010 also! I had never traveled by myself before — let alone abroad — and I went there too in search of peace. It was an absolute disaster in some ways (because I learned that wherever you go, you bring your baggage with you). But it was a gift in other unexpected ways, and I treasure the memories of that first visit. I would love to see photos of YOUR trip there, if you care to share them!

          • At the time, it was really challenging (working through emotional stuff, getting used to being on my own 24/7, even for a few days, so, er more like 24/3) but I do remember just loving the atmosphere, the freedom of roaming, and of course the accents!

            I’ll have a look through my photos in the next couple of days and see if anything is worth adding to my Flickr retrospectively, I think there might be some on there already. Thanks for your interest Heide!

          • “… er more like 24/3.” HA HA! The important thing is to make the most of whatever time we have, eh? 😉 Please do ping me if you find anything worth adding to your Flickr feed. In the meantime, thank you for the wonderful correspondence! It’s been lovely getting to know you a bit over the past few days …

          • What lovely photos, Dan! I love the one of the métro entrance especially — it’s so hard to isolate those things in the frame and get the timeless shot you’ve captured! Also love the books, with the quite the round-up of racy titles. 😉

  9. Beautiful images. Seems the most interesting outdoor photographs are always taken when most non-photographers are indoors. Love your blog.

    • What a wonderful observation, Joel — thank you for encouraging me to keep getting out there, especially when the couch beckons so persuasively. And thank you for your kind words as well. You’ve made my day.

    • A little red coat is the perfect antidote to the winter blahs! Stay toasty warm, and cheers to you from across the pond.

  10. The whole snow thing is such a conumdrum. While it looks pretty on an undisturbed field, it’s a pain in the butt on the roads. I left Canada February 8, and have missed a few snow storms while traveling. I was really hoping it would be looking like spring by the time I got home, but it’s snowing as I type this…gah! Loved all your photo’s and I hope spring is just around the corner.

    • You’re right that snow is big pain in the patootie if you have to actually get anywhere — so I’m glad you’re elsewhere right now and missing this Alberta Clipper. It’s supposed to warm up later in the week, though, so fingers crossed that it will indeed all be melted by the time you get home.

  11. These photos are gorgeous! Thank you for documenting and sharing the world around you =)) I love the change captured from the depths of winter, to a showing of spring in future. It’s really visual poetry, Heide, thank you so much –

  12. The sonic equivalent of a few of these pictures has got to be the longest soaringly crisp note out of a finely-tuned electric guitar with absolutely no reverb whatsoever. They’re nice! The fourth picture down reminds me of Long John Silver, haha!

    • It’s the first time my photos have been compared to anything musical … and what a wonderful metaphor you’ve chosen! Long Jane Silver thanks you. 🙂

  13. From a complete whiteout to the sun’s glow behind your oak tree, this has been a lovely photographic journey. However, the thought of getting to the shops through knee deep snow is not one I fancy.

    • Fortunately, most of the shops clear the sidewalks — so when you’re in more civilized quarters it’s easier to get about. (It’s not true everywhere, though, so I still recommend knee-high boots. 🙂

  14. Oh Heide I think May had it all wrong. What exquisite landscapes and light. And beautifully captured by you. Enjoy it while its there. Says she who is more used extreme conditions of sweltering rather than freezing …. Louise

    • You honor me with your kind words, Louise. My Minnesota neighborhood seems rather mundane compared to the gorgeous vistas you’ve been exploring through your travels, but I do greatly enjoy whatever time I can spend in nature, no matter how ordinary the surroundings. Thank you for your kind words … you’ve made my day!

  15. Oh Heide I’ve been viewing our conversation from within my notifications box on my blog, didn’t realise the nested replies had got all squashed up so much! Sorry about that, I would have started a new reply thread. You can change this in your WP dashboard under Settings > Discussion > Comments > Enable threaded (nested) comments up to … I have mine set at five because after that it gets very difficult to read as it pushes the text over a bit more each time!

    • You are wise in the ways of WordPress, Dan! Thank you for all the tips and suggestions you’ve offered. Though now I’m curious to see just how narrow we can actually make this thread. What do you think the limit is? One word? One letter? Let’s see if we can push the envelope and find out! 😀

      • Well with the thread above it’s currently down to one word – but some of the words are spilling over into the border! I didn’t realise by posting a link to my Flickr album it would preview the actual photographs – all super elongated because of the narrow width of the reply box ha ha!

        Looking through my Paris shots (400+!) I remembered how busy it was there, because most shots have far too many random people in! Then there are a number of photographs of almost empty streets, where I realised if I got up early enough I would be able to focus on the architecture and surroundings without pesky tourists getting in the way!

        • As much as I was loving our experiment in comment reductionism, we can’t have your photos looking like a bunch of Salvador Dalí paintings — so I’ve reset the parameters for “nesting” comments. 🙂 (I didn’t realize WordPress would post thumbnails of links either, so this is a new one to me too.)

          And yes, you’re right in observing both that Paris is thronged with people, and that getting up early is the key to people-free shots. That seems to be the approach Christopher Thomas used for his beautiful book (, although honestly it ends up feeling like a gorgeous-but-hollow ghost town when you see image after image that’s devoid of people. Nevertheless, I have to give the man a big tip of the chapeau for his gorgeous fine-art images.

          One last observation: 400 images in three days? Is this before or after culling them down to your favorites? I’ve been shooting about 400 *per day* during recent trips, but am going to do my utmost to discipline myself this time and shoot more intentionally. I was much more disciplined back in my film days …

          • Oh Heide adjusting the nesting limit already makes the comments section look more spacious and legible, good decision!

            Thanks for the book link, I’ve added to my Amazon Wishlist! I wrote recently on 35hunter about reading more photography books.

            400 images was without any editing. It was over nearly four days remember, so about 100 a day. I just had my Sony camera phone, and the main purpose was to document the trip, where I went, what I saw. I wasn’t going for artistic photos most of the time.

            Typically for me these days a photowalk is 1-2 hours and I take 50-100 photos, maybe a few more. This is with digital compacts. I’ll probably then ultimately keep 30% or so, from a good walk, though I’m also trying to be more selective, both in the picture taking and in the editing.

          • If you come up with a good method for being more selective in your shooting please let me know, Dan. I’m about ready to check myself into some kind of rehabilitation program, because when I’m traveling especially *everything* looks interesting. If curiosity and wonder were diseases, I would have an acute case. 🙂

          • Thank you for linking to last year’s post, Dan — some great food for thought in there! And I look forward to tonight’s post as well, because too many of my photos have never seen the light of day for my dread of the tedious, exhausting editing process.

          • My latest evolution of editing (“additive editing”) is quick and painless! Hope you get something from it, let me know in the comments.

  16. Just love your photos. I haven’t lived near snow-filled streets for a while, but they are still beautiful to look at.

    • Thank you so much! I hope they bring back some fond memories for you — just as your beautiful photos of Florida evoke happy times for me.

  17. I really like the macro of the snow between the tree buds. I just moved from the Southern California desert to North Idaho, so appreciation and photography of snow and the changing seasons is a new concept I greatly welcome.

    • What a huge move you’ve made, Tom! I hope you’ll really enjoy the changing of the seasons. Spring seems especially miraculous to me — and I love the crisp fall nights. I’ll be eager to see how nature’s moods work their way into your photography.

  18. Simply gorgeous photos of a Minnesota winter. I’m a Delaware resident, so I don’t think I can quite comprehend the bitter coldness in Minnesota this time of year. It’s bad enough here on the east coast right now haha. But as someone who doesn’t have a natural eye for photography, I have to say I’m very impressed after looking through your photos on this site. Keep up the good work!

    • Yes, I do hear you’re taking a bit of a beating along the east coast just now. I hope this will be the last major storm of the season for you and that soon things will settle down. And thank you so much for your encouragement and kind words! I can’t make any claims about having a natural eye for photography either, but I sure do enjoy experimenting and learning. Cheers, and thanks for stopping by!

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, and especially for your kind comment. I’m really glad you enjoyed this post.

    • Thank you for your kind compliment! But no, I’m not a professional — just an enthusiastic amateur. 🙂

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