Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Snows of December

Manual Focus Required

I like winter. Really I do. I have enjoyed winter sports more than summer sports much of my life. For over two decades I taught skiing. And when a skiing accident ended that I adopted snowshoeing as my winter sport. Photography takes me out when others stay in. I live in the mountains because I like moderate summers and most months of winter.

I am, however, not fond of December snows. They just seem rude. They arrive with high winds and plunging temps. They come before I or anyone seems mentally prepared even if we have been wishing for snow for the ski area and the moisture it provides for the trees of our forest. And they come most years in one, two, three punches that hardly allow you to get your driveway cleared. The county plows struggle with the blowing snow and none of the drivers know where the bar ditches are. Hint - they are under the smooth snow just before the piles the plow has made on the edges.

Osha Road

And there are just more gray days with December snows. New Mexico seldom has gray skies. We are a land of sudden storms that quickly move away. But not in December. The gray seems to hang around and blend with the snow below. The sun shines weakly if at all. I begin to wonder if I have been transported to Alaska.

Four foot high plow pile

Claustrophobia begins to settle in. It is not helped by the narrowed areas of passage between huge piles of snow. Or that every time I clear my driveway I seem to lose ground. And the subfreezing temps with the scattering of subzero nights offer no hope of any of it melting away anytime soon. I feel trapped by the night, the cold and the blowing snow.

At least in the month of December. January we get a traditional couple weeks of thaw. Last winter it began early and extended well into February as the days got longer and warmer. Snows of March and April are not taken seriously. They drop the largest amounts of the wettest snows and are a life saver for our forests and the aquifers that provide our well water. But they are here today and gone tomorrow.

Chairs of Summer by J. Binford-Bell

They dump and move on leaving behind the sun and fun. I love the snows of the spring. They promise shadows and the flowers of tomorrow.

Shadows of photographer and dogs

The clouds quickly move away and reveal the sun and the blue sky behind them. That is a very, very rare thing in the month of December. As a ski instructor I always wondered why everyone fought to get reservations for Christmas here. And yet in much of the months of February and March the runs were empty except for those in the know.

The good news is there is not much of December left. When the chill icy wind is gone I can get out of my house for something other than shoveling snow and take pictures of shadows and blue sky again.


  1. Fantastic and very interesting blog Jacqui. Your photos are stunning to say the least.
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. I like your observations. When we think of it in summer, winter appears like one long expanse of dark monochrome. But in reality each month has its own character. You'd go nuts here, too much grey all winter!
    and this one

    1. I think we make winter worse too by calling Winter Solstice the first day of winter when in actuality if is the middle of the weather pattern. A very cold middle because the shortening days have finally cooled off the earth.

    2. So true! If we go by the LIGHT, then Solstice marks the middle of the Dark Season, Halloween to Groundhog day.


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