20 Below Zero – Seeking a Reason to Smile

 February 2nd is “Cross-Quarter Day” – half way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. In early times, northern cultures celebrated this day with dancing and song. Here in the U.S., we call it “Groundhog Day”. There is hope for warmer days because we have almost 10 hours of sunlight; one hour and 15 minutes more sun than on the winter solstice. We are gaining one minute of sunlight each day. The sun angle is higher, and it feels warmer on our cheeks.


Spring Birds Calling – Over the past week I have heard the spring calls of the cardinal, chickadee, nuthatch, and the drumming of a downy woodpecker.  These sounds are melting the dark places in my winter heart.


Black-capped Chickadee (fee bee call)



Downy Woodpecker (drumming – setting up its territory)




White Breasted Nuthatch


To listen to other sounds of spring go to:www.oldnaturalist.com/the-sounds-of-spring/

It has been a little rough up here on the “frozen tundra” this winter. Most people I know haven’t taken off their long underwear since the Winter Solstice. I have been wearing the same pair of wool coveralls for a month and have been hoping that no one has noticed. I for one, suffer through the dark months of the year and need to be outside each day.

Rooster snow drift

Rooster snow drift

Getting outside every day can be a challenge. Add a sub-zero temperature and a north wind in your face and you are going to feel a spike going through your head. You might start wondering why you are out there, or if it is even safe. There has been a few days when I was walking with my dog and he ran back to the house when I wasn’t looking. Some people make their choices to be outside based upon windchill. I make my choice based upon my emotional stability.


 Sometimes you have to look hard to find beauty on our stark white landscape. The natural patterns created by the wind and snow can be stunning.

Sunset Snowdrift

Sunset Snowdrift

A “Sundog” appears in the sky when the sun is rising or setting. Its looks like sideways rainbows on either side of the sun and is caused by the refraction of the sun through cirrus cloud ice crystals.



The following note was submitted by Gretchen Alford:
I can totally relate to the part about your dog retreating to the house when you’re not looking.  Bravo does it too, as his paw pads get cold quickly.  We get out twice each day, NO MATTER WHAT!  There’s something about the air, the sounds, the lack of other sounds, the light, the snow laden branches, the critter tracks in the snow and the beckoning woods – it makes it all worthwhile for a farm girl at heart and her frisky British Lab.


                                                    Unexpected Surprises


fox trail

fox trail


crow wing and body

crow wing and body








The Long Shadows of Winter





Mr. Mook

Mr. Mook








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5 Responses to 20 Below Zero – Seeking a Reason to Smile

  1. Cliff says:

    Thank you, Larry, for reminder that spring is not far off. The increasing daylight time sneaks up on us, but now I feel optimistic that the worst is behind us. I also try to get outside for a long walk everyday (I don’t have a dog!), but your pictures and accompanying commentary gives me something to look for and contemplate other than the potential for falling down on an unseen patch of ice. The Old Naturalist spurs us on to look beyond the capriciousness of the weather and focus on the wonders of nature that surrounds every day, season to season and year to year. Thanks for leading us on.

  2. Linda Hansen says:

    Yes, fresh and frigid but true and invigorating. I do have the dog and the long shadows. We push into the slush or frozen contours of tire tracks on our walks. Spring will smell like earth soon but now- it’s just fresh and nothing else feels like this in the crispy crystal mornings. Thank you Larry ~

  3. Laurel says:

    Great pictures – I love the first one!

  4. Dale Antonson says:

    I think the ability to get outside everyday is your testament to your values and what’s really important to you, Larry. We do live in this incredible world/garden that changes everyday. The challenge right now is to endure this inescapable cold, which itself is suppose to start moderating next week. Thank you for sharing! I’m so grateful for your insights, the beautiful photo’s and recordings you include in your posts.

  5. Janine says:

    The bird calls you recorded made me smile. I have hope that this brutal winter will eventually end.

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