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Of Death’s Twilight Kingdom

December 17, 2011

In Oregon, winter often sneaks in with a whisper. Carried on a slowly building swell of cold and wind and rain, it can be difficult some years to distinguish between a wet fall and a slightly wetter winter. As I grew up along the southern edge of the Willamette Valley, an area apparently described as having a Mediterranean climate, it often seemed that the only distinction between the seasons was that one was punctuated by the sounds of corduroy-clad legs rustling through soggy leaves while the other was tinged with a tad more frost.

But some winters roar to life, determined to make their presence known. One such winter came during my fourth-grade year, when a snowstorm dumped several inches across the valley. The snow refused to give up its hold on the area and we missed three days of school before we were forced to return because we used all of the state-allotted snow days for the year.

The most recent came three years ago, when I made my final trip home after living in California for several years. Before we could get underway, two storms had blanketed Oregon with deep snow while unrelenting cold spread ice between each layer. Despite this, the majority of the trip from San Francisco to McMinnville was relatively uneventful as we enjoyed the clear skies and even clearer roads. Then, we reached Salem. Just south of the 45th parallel, we glided through a curtain of freezing fog. As each mile passed under the tires, the air grew heavier and thicker, until large flakes fell around us. By the time we reached Yamhill County, the chains struggled to find purchase on the drifts. The snow clung to the land, delaying Christmas almost to the New Year for Portland and many of the surrounding counties.

And then came this winter.

Our only real summer weather this year came during a few short days around the Fourth of July and a two-week period at the end of the season, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when winter let us know that it was going to come on early and cold. While we have yet to experience the snowstorms of years past, we have already suffered through multiple days of 20-degree mornings and barely freezing afternoons — all well before Midwinter.

The cold snap has had an interesting effect on the local flora. Without a real fall, many plants didn’t have time to draw vital nutrients back to their roots and wither to the ground before the killing frosts. Instead, many froze in place, the cold gradually leaching color from their once beautiful blooms. The result is a landscape of wintry sentinels, quietly standing guard over the dormant land and waiting for an early spring sun to bring new life to the world.



From → Random Beauty

  1. awesome pictures!

    • Thanks! It was obnoxiously cold and my dog hated waiting for me to take the photos, but I think it was worth it in the end.

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