It's been, thus far, a very odd winter--perhaps I should say a very odd December, for winter, heavenly body-wise, has only just begun.
For starters, those in the know say we've never had a wetter final month of the calendar year--never. We've had three and half snowstorms already, not one of them blizzard-y, each of them quite gentlemanly, two of them simply disappearing thereafter in unseasonably warm temps. Honestly, such favors make you think this ain't Iowa 't'all.
So the land on New Years' morning seemed almost marshmellow-y, puffy white and so bright my camera was wincing. Look for yourself. It just doesn't happen often that farmland in windy Siouxland wears a fine, alabaster robe.
By the time I left, the wind had come up a bit--look at the bottom of this shot; but for the most part the whole world seemed to rest most comfortable beneath a quilt of snow that had fallen already a couple of days ago, then just stayed as if resting. Very peculiar, but really pretty.
Corn stubble protrudes, but the constancy of its impeccable order creates its own kind of beauty.
If the temps come back up above freezing, the rivers will stay open; but yesterday, three or four days into a freeze, the Big Sioux was getting close to pulling its own icy quilt up and over itself for a winter's nap that's already going to be shorter than most.
Here and there along its banks, tufts of dried out weeds stuck in overhanging branches are a reminder of spring floods that seem, in January, unimaginable.
Here's a bow-tie reminder of a not-so-rare weather event that likely rushed through the whole river valley at couple years ago already.
The untrammeled snow leaves stories wherever anyone or anything disturbs it. Some winters snowmobiles never get out of the shed, but this year is a paradise. Their tracks are everywhere, but not as ubiquitous as the lines deer leave behind. Those in the know claim there are far more deer here now than were here in the days of the Yankton Sioux. They do well in Siouxland these days, where there's no end to corn.
I don't need encouragement to get out early with a camera. Yesterday, once again, I was disappointed when I sat here at the screen and looked over the catch--I always am. What I saw out there was so much richer than what I could get into the camera.
You'll have to trust me on that.
Not all mornings are created equal, but all of them are unique. This cottonwood on the Big Sioux will never take this pose again. It'll be there, just as will the river behind it. But it will never look quite like this again, the ingredients of this particular still life unique within the first few moments of the first day of the new year.
New Years morning worship services are pretty much gone from church calendars, even in Siouxland, where just about everyone is a churchgoer. I drove out to the Big Sioux in the morning of the first day of 2016.
Even if nothing I came home with catches the beauty of the world I was in, I was blessed to have been there. My morning thanks are for the dawn of a new year.