Crystal Delights: A Last View of Frosty Millbrook

It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam.  ~John Burroughs, "Winter Sunshine"

It may not have seemed like it this week, but winter is drawing to a close. It is March, we "spring forward" with the clocks this coming weekend, and the forecast says that temperatures will be bounding into the 30s and 40s F in the coming week. A lot of the white stuff will begin to melt - oh, sure, it will take some time - but spring is coming!

And so, when the temperature was one degree F when I woke up on Friday morning, I knew just where I had to go. I was starting to get a sense of the ending of things, and I seized what I thought just might be my last opportunity to photograph frosty Millbrook covered in crystals. I enjoy the marsh in every season, of course, but winter is possibly when I love it best.

I have experienced many unexpected delights at Millbrook, not the least of which was last year's amazing morning with the frost mist rising. I think of that morning often, and despite having been there near sunrise upon every single absolutely frigid morning I could possibly manage this winter, I regret to admit that I have never seen such a phenomenon since.

These are the special gifts of photography: those moments that cannot possibly be replicated, where you have the camera with you, and you have pictures to prove that it actually happened. Knowing how ephemeral such experiences can be does not stop me from trying; in fact, it's actually motivation to keep bringing me back again.

It is morning, and the sun is shining brightly on the water. The sky is a shade of blue that only comes in winter. The snow is deep and covered with a heavy crust of ice on top. The boardwalk creaks when I walk on it. The spring run is trying to ice over again.

Two Canada geese and two mallards are floating down the stream in the mist. I step down off the boardwalk and go down along the stream to check out some animal tracks; as I do so, the glare of the sun on the water is almost blinding. I have to look away. It's one of those almost-too-bright winter days.

Every single teasel and cattail - these humble makers of magic - is covered in hoar frost. And there are crystals all along the creek, rising up from the water, reflecting on its surface, and sparkling in the morning sun. I know it will not look this way the next time I visit, so I treasure it.

This is how it is when I dream of Millbrook: it is winter, it is frigid, and the marsh is wrapped in sparkling, shining magic. And I am here, I am here to see the show one last time.

The sound track is a song by one of my favorite Crystals: Crystal Gayle, with When I Dream.

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