Greenpoint: Keeping an eye on the winter sky


When I lived in Seattle, a friend from Connecticut came to visit for a week in December, always a rainy month.

And it rained, hard and nonstop, day after gray day.

“I don’t know how you can live here,” my friend said, around day four. But then the sun came back.

Seattle is between two mountain ranges, the Cascades to the east and the Olympics to the west. In winter, when it’s raining in the valley it’s snowing in the mountains. So when the sun finally comes out, the city is surrounded by jagged peaks shimmering in new white show against a clean blue sky.

Even my friend was mesmerized.

Winter’s clear dry air makes for beautiful sky shows, even here. On the coldest day midweek, the sky shone bright blue, crystal clear in the day. At night so many stars were out that I stood still for way too long when I took the old dog outside for one of her many night excursions. “I can’t feel my fingers,” I told the dog, and her feet were getting cold, too, so we went back inside.

We’ve had our first stretch of really cold weather — 10 below or colder. Don’t tell the Floridian, but I’ve been enjoying it, for the solitude and the sky show.

The dog and I have been walking on the road in the early morning dark, watching the sky, the waning crescent moon, the stars. I haven’t taken her into the woods since our snow dump a couple of weeks ago because I haven’t snowshoed there to open up her regular paths. She sinks deep into the snow, then looks at me disapprovingly. She’s right — I should clear her paths.

Instead I’ve been snowshoeing alone in the woods behind the house. The paths are crisscrossed with tracks — deer, rabbits, snowshoe hares, foxes, coyote, mystery little creatures. There are some newly downed trees across some paths, at least new to me, so I’m making detours as I head out to the stream or up the hill to granddaddy’s land.

The snow’s been a pleasure — the first real dump of the winter. We had a few inches in December, so we’ve had steady snow cover, but not enough to enjoy. And we’re about 15 inches below average for the season, which could mean a dry spring if things don’t turn around.

This weekend’s nor’easter seemed to be on track to miss us, staying too far east for much snow here as it brought a blizzard to Boston.

Who knows? Maybe you’re socked in snow as you read this. Or maybe you’re enjoying the clearest of blue skies, the kind we only get in the middle of a winter cold snap. If so, check out the stars, in the middle of the night or before sunrise, when Venus and Mars are out too. It’s another way to enjoy the cold.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Feb. 13. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or on Twitter @Hartley_Maggie. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are not necessarily those of the newspaper’s.

Categories: Life and Arts

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