Yesterday was thick with snow—wave after wave of swirling white, light and fluffy, that filled the air and, at times, made you think things were getting serious. Most of it didn't stick, not until late afternoon when it finally started to dust over the bare spots. In the end, here along the river we received something less than two inches—just enough to cover and renew what was left of the old stuff still remaining on the ground. About half of that, I think, fell during the night.
Birds are flocking to the feeders, as they always do during and following a snowfall. Of course the cardinals were already waiting for their breakfast measure of cracked corn when I went outside first thing, before Myladylove and I took our own meal. I could hear them grumbling in the darkness. I'm afraid they're going to have to learn patience, since dawn comes ever earlier and I'm not going to alter my getting-up time to suite a bunch of spoiled redbirds.
Another bird that seemed out of sorts was a starling that glared at me from a patch of snow-covered stalks in one of the flower beds. I don't know what his problem was, since the seed and suet feeders were full, the corn was on the ground, and I'd even tossed out a few bits of apples and oranges from a fruit salad. Luckily, I don't have all that many starlings to deal with. In fact, this has been the first winter I've had even a few hang about.
As I stood on the deck this morning and looked around, I was, as always, mildly surprised by how much whiter and brighter a layer of fresh snow appears. Like recently purchased sheets and pillowcases just out of their packaging, placed side-by-side with sets in the linen closet. In spite of being scrupulously washed and bleached, in comparison the older ones always look a bit dull and dingy. The eye, good as it is, sometimes needs such juxtapositions of contrast and tonal scale.
One of the things I soon learned in darkroom work was that photographic papers for making black-and-white prints were all different—that is to say the same rendered tones on a finished print differed depending on brands and product lines. Black was not just black, and white was not just white, but rather a hundred variations of each—some "warmer," others "cooler," depending on the paper used. Developers and fixers—those chemical bathes employed to cause the actual image retained on the paper after it has been exposed to focused light shined through a negative in an enlarger—could also alter the tonality and contrast of the blacks and whites and dozens of in-between grays of the finished print. Even viewed under the dimmest of darkroom safelights—illumination considerably less than that of a single candle flame—a good printer and darkroom technician can see these variations and employ them to his advantage. And you'd be surprised how much this comes into play in fine printmaking—how awful an image can look when printed on the "wrong" paper, and how great it can look when it's matched correctly.
Another place such fine-tuned "seeing" makes a real difference is when sorting pearls. Natural pearls come in all shades and tonal hues. If you're paying the price for a genuine wild pearl necklace, every pearl on the string must match in terms of color. I've heard the very best pearl sorters can differentiate among a couple hundred hues.
This morning we've received the benefit of another seasonal whitewashing. The world is clean, lustrous amid refulgent light. Whether it will prove to be the final snowfall of this winter or not is anybody's guess. Most everyone else I know is tired of winter, tired of the cold, tired of seeing white. If you'd have asked me yesterday, I might have said I was, too. I'm fine to see one more frosting on the seasonal cake.
I say hooray for fresh snow!