Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow Day on the Trail

"The winter is the best season of the four because there is more mystery in it.  Things are hidden; yet there is a new and strange spirit in the air.  There are strange bird-calls in the depths of the still, white woods.  There are strange marks in the new fallen snow.  There are soft noises when the snow drops from the trees. . . We speak of winter as bare, but this is only a contrast with summer.  In the summer all things are familiar and close; the depths are covered.  The view restricted.  We see things near by.  In the winter things are uncovered.  Old objects have new forms. . . Even when the snow lies deep on the earth the ground-line carries the eye into strange distances.  You look far down into the heart of the woods.  You feel the strength and resoluteness of the framework of the trees.  You see the corners and angles of the rocks.  You discover the trail that was lost in the summer.  You look clear through the weedy tangle.  You find new knot-holes in the tree-trunks.  You penetrate to the very depths.  You analyze, and gain insight."  --Liberty Hyde Bailey, The Nature Study Idea, 1904

Outdoor Classroom
Fur Tree Standing Strong
Fern Garden Under Snow

Today, we have a reprieve from the classroom.  A Snow Day!  The temperature outside is 7 degrees, with a wind chill of -9 degrees.  I went out to fill the bird feeders and poke around the trails in snowshoes.  It was beautiful and quiet.  The form and feel of winter is a study in angles and stillness.  The bare branches of trees, bushes and plants show their structural anatomy as they brace against the wind and snow.  All living things no doubt are seeking shelter from the cold.  The only signs of moving life were animal prints in the snow.  Surviving winter in West Michigan requires some amazing adaptations for plants and animals.  Even us humans need to be hearty and willing to preserve to appreciate this winter wonderland.  In a couple of weeks (weather permitting) the fourth grade students at North Shore Elementary will be spending an hour with outdoor expert and enthusiast, Dan Keto, from Kalamazoo Nature Center.  The Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum is sponsoring this educational and fun event.  We will be walking in snowshoes through our backyard nature trails looking for signs of life and learning about animal survival skills and winter habitats.  It's our winter nature-study!  I look forward to sharing the beauty of winter with Dan and our students and updating this blog with photos of this outdoor winter adventure in the near future!

  "The lesson is that our interest in the out-of-doors should be a perennial current that overflows from the fountain that lies deep within us.  This interest is colored and modified by every passing season, but fundamentally it is beyond time and place.  Winter or no winter, it matter not; the fields lie beyond."   --Liberty Hyde Bailey,  The Nature-Study Idea, 1904