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The ice of late winter


The season of winter has slightly less than two months to go before it officially ends; as to what winter does from now on weather-wise, that’s anyone’s guess. We’ve had some mild days in the 50s and also some sub-zero days and a moderate amount of frozen precipitation so far. Having to go somewhere during a snow or ice storm is no fun for most people; the roads and walking paths can be slick, and this has caused a fair number of fender-benders or slips and falls.

Yet, the same ice that causes us a lot of angst over the winter can also be a thing of beauty in the right circumstances. A frozen waterfall, or long tendrils of hoarfrost on tree branches during a cold foggy morning, are always fun to see. Most of us enjoy some sort of winter activity, whether it be skiing, ice fishing, sledding with the kids, or simply taking a walk in the snow so see what tracks various animals have left behind.

When the temperature of water falls below its freezing point, the molecular structure forms a hexagonal crystal structure and changes from a liquid to a solid. The evidence of this structure can be seen when looking at a single snow flake or certain frost patterns on windows or other objects. The same properties that make frozen water a nuisance when navigating on it or trying to clear it from your driveway can also make it a wonder of nature when observed closely. For those of us who cannot wait for spring’s arrival, take heart: we are soon to turn the corner. And this quote from John Steinbeck, famed author of “The Grapes of Wrath” offers some food for thought: “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”


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