Swift changes: seasons and colors

Tuesday night I went out skiing along the Torch Lake shore, out on the old sand bank the stamp mills and the regrinding mills left behind. Out on the old C&H stamp sand and tailings, covered over as they are now with clay and dirt and, as the days go by, less and less snow.

The snow that was there was the snow of the sap season, of the very end of winter. Cold temperatures had come with the near onset of evening.

The surface of the snow, thawed under the day’s sunlight, had frozen again, into a hard shell. A good, slick surface for skiing, this snow let me speed along without need of waxing my skis.

As I put on the skis, my dog smelled the earth where the sun had already melted through the snow. The sky was getting orange above the tops of the trees up on the hill. The sun, still visible above the hilltop treetops, cast sharp shadows in the wind sculpted snow.

The snow surface had quite a texture. Something like waves. But of pure light and pure shadow. Here and there – in fact, in a lot of places – the brown stalks of last summer’s knapweed plants protruded from the snow. I’d made it out there just in time to see this light-and-shadowed snow. It would all fade to mottled blue-gray within a short time.

I skied eastward along the lakeshore. The lake was bright. It reflected what was left of blue in the sky, in the waning light. The lake was pale-bright turquoise. The color seemed to glow through the surface ice. And the color was fleeting and mutable. It changed through several shades of blue before resolving itself into pale blue-gray.

I skated in gliding strides on the skis, out along the far side of the sand bank. I watched a few clouds in the sky. Looked into the distance at the ridge bounding the northwest side of Traprock Valley. It is surprising how much can be seen of that distant landscape from such a seemingly low vantage point as the old sand bank, at the very north end of Torch Lake.

As I turned westward, back toward town, there was still orange in the sky. This, too, gradually faded into dusk.

All this change took place in the space of half an hour, maybe less than that. More change will come soon, of course. On the sand bank as elsewhere. The rest of the snow will melt away. Green grass will grow. Clay soil will stand out in orange contrast to the green grass.

There will be fresh knapweed, fresh leaves on the trees. Fresh green all around on the wet spring ground. And this will later give way to straw color and brown. Ground will be dry in lat summer. Green will fade, leaves will fall.

But not for a while.

Spring is nearly here, coming swiftly like twilight’s shifting colors.