Saturday, February 7, 2009

More Snow and Ice Images: Forty-Seven Years Ago

Now that it has snowed even on coastal South Carolina, and now that the annual, ritual mocking of California softies has been chanted by our Canadian cousin, I feel obliged to point out that not all of us lotus-eaters have always been so unfamiliar with snow. In fact, some of my favorite memories are of my youthful experiences with the stuff, in Chenango County, New York, downwind of Buffalo, in the fulsome blast-path of lake effect snows.

They are "favorite" memories, of course, because they don't come with the sting of melted and re-frozen water in my jeans, or the bite of frozen snot on my upper lip. They just come with visuals, so they are greeted fondly.

Among the fondest are ones captured by my Dad's camera in February, 1962. We had a brief thaw, followed by a deep and quick freeze, which worked absolute frozen hell on the roads, which turned into ribbons of thick and slick ice. But it also worked magic on the streams and creeks in the county's glens. The brief thaw caused water to run over the rocks -- and through them, too, since most of the rocks there are shale and other sedimentaries with plentiful interstitial pathways for fine streams of water -- to trickle down toward creeks and streams. The quick plummet in temperature then froze that migration in time, producing frozen waterfalls, icy stalactites, and colorful walls of petrified water tinted by the minerals it had passed through on its way to temporary stasis.

The images below are from that event, and were taken by my Dad, Lynn Harrington. Many of them have shown up over on PicShers, my photo-a-day blog, but these are linked to much higher-resolution versions than the ones over there are. If you click on any of these images, you will be taken to Flickr, where you can view them at as high a resolution as you can stand (click on the "all sizes" magnifying glass right above the image to access other resolutions.)

A Day in February, 1962 (1 of 6)
In "Gorgeous Gorge," a little tributary to Thompson Creek. Our house was on the south side of the Thompson Creek Valley near Kings Settlement, New York, and this glen was directly across the valley, on its north side.

A Day in February, 1962 (2 of 6)
I carefully trudge between a frozen waterfall and a flash-frozen exposed pool. My walking stick is an inverted golf club, a putter if I recall correctly.

A Day in February, 1962 (3 of 6)
Natty Bumpo trudges over a perilous waterfall. Click here for what this idyllic place in the glen looked like in summer.

A Day in February, 1962 (4 of 6)
A pause in the upper part of the glen, looking south and downstream.

A Day in February, 1962 (5 of 6)
View from the high ridge above the glen, southward toward home. If you click on this image and view it in Flickr, you'll see a box toward the right of the frame; it indicates our little house on the south side of the Thompson Creek Valley.

A Day in February, 1962 (6 of 6)
After that little walk, Dad and I (and Mom, seen here in her white parka) gathered up some wood trimmings from around the property and had a little bonfire.

White Store, NY, February 1962 (1 of 2)
This photo was probably taken either the day before or the day after the above ones were. Dad's sisters Myrt and Mary lived in a hollow off the Unadilla Valley, one ridge to the east of our place off the Chenango Valley. Their house was next to a creek with a significantly deeper and more dramatic gorge than the one Dad and I walked. This image shows, dramatically, the effects of minerals and dirt entrained in the water's flow on the color of the flash-frozen curtains. (I am leaning gingerly against an ice face in the background, Mom is in her white parka again, and I think that's my cousin Marjie in the red coat.)

White Store, NY, February 1962 (2 of 2)
Waterfalls frozen in time and in fact.

(The remarkable ability of modern photo scanning technology to reconstruct images' color has made these views seem immediate, but they're not. To get a sense of how long ago they were taken, beyond the dry quantification of "47 years," consider this: Dads' sisters' house is about a hundred yards behind us from this photo's vantage point. Inside that house was a telephone, but that telephone couldn't be accessed the way we're used to. Its number was "South New Berlin 3-Y-5," which had to be spoken, not dialed or punched in, to a live operator, who would then physically cause the 'phone to ring by plugging a big connector into a hole in her switchboard and pressing a button to send current down the line, ringing all of the bells on the party line, but in a code of longs and shorts that indicated for whom the call was intended. Sometimes it worked, but sometimes the neighborhood busybody would pick up her 'phone instead.)



Adam said...

OK, I'll admit it. There WAS stunning beauty to be found during those long upstate winters.

Hadn't realized until now, the only time I've ever visited Streamhouse was summertime.

Mike said...

There are winter days when I look at the sharp blue sky that only comes on a sub-zero day and the contrast of snow on the pines and I'm truly awed by the beauty. Mostly from inside the livingroom.