from sky to seed

Frost flowers

Have I said it’s been cold lately?

It’s been cold lately.

The other day, late in the afternoon, I went for a long walk with the animals to savor the last of fall. But it didn’t really feel like fall, because I had to wear one of those hats with long ears (dumbshit hats–because you’re a dumbshit if you don’t have one) and a scarf and a heavy down coat and gloves and my Uggs. Sucked. Except the Uggs. I don’t care that they’re universally hated by men. I fucking love them.

IMG_8729I started on the road that runs from the house down to the creek because I thought it’d be nice to walk in the sunshine. At the very least, it was beautiful.

IMG_8753There are just a few leaves still on the trees that border the road, which makes me kinda sad. The grass is losing its color, the green leaches back into the ground to sleep.

IMG_8765The part that really breaks my heart is how sad and suddenly the oats field turned yellow, or gold. It looks so warm but it was freezing. The wind! Howling. I felt like it was whistling in the space between my ears and the felt interior of my hat.

IMG_8757There’s one beautiful old row of oaks that have managed to hold onto the last of their leaves. They might’ve been the last to turn on the entire farm.

IMG_8748I cut into the woods on this great trail that follows an old fence row up to the power lines that cut across the property. Can you see Pax? She’s so pretty. It’s hilarious to follow her through all that leaf duff because she’s so clumsy. She’s the least coordinated border collie I’ve ever known. She stumbles on logs and big old rocks. Shortly after I took this picture she sank up to her chest in a pile of leaves that had gathered in a dry creek bed.

IMG_8822Up on the ridge, the tree covers opens up quite a bit and I started seeing a lot more of this: tall stalks of grass dry enough to snap, and the old tufted heads of… thistle? Milkweed? I don’t know.

I began passing a lot of other plants that looked like they had bag worm sacks at their feet, which is exactly what I assumed they were.

IMG_8814They looked like some cross between plastic bags that had tangled around the plants and shredded fiberglass. Pax paid no mind, so I didn’t either, except that they were everywhere.

IMG_8815This next bit makes me feel extremely stupid, because it wasn’t until the near the end of my walk when I’d looped through the woods back around to the house that I finally stopped to observe the white fluff stuff. I knelt down next to a single cluster and literally said out loud, “That’s so weird, it really does look like ice, but it can’t be!” And then I reached out to touch it, expecting it to stick to my gloves like cobwebs. It shattered under the weight of my gloved fingertip.

IMG_8819I finally broke off a little piece for closer observation. It really was ice. Really! I’d never seen anything like it. In all my time in Alaska, in all my time at high elevations, never, ever, once, have I seen something like this.

After, I saw them everywhere, all through the woods, like little dropped napkins.

The next day, the local newspaper ran an article on some lady in Kansas or something who’d seen this “extremely rare natural event called frost flowers.” Nobody seems to be able to say for sure, but scientists venture that when a suddenly cold snap occurs, the water bursts up from the roots, or something. I guess they’re more common early in the morning and tend to fade as the sun comes out, but it just didn’t warm up enough to do that in this case. They stayed all day.

And, like so many “rare events,” the comment stream on the article went crazy with stories from hundreds of people in the area who had also seem the frost flowers. We are a collective. Like I said in my 100th post, story is important. It shows us that we’re not alone.

Frost Flowers, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation

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