Deep Freeze

_C1_5739The polar vortex, a cyclone of cold air constantly spinning around the Arctic Circle, has struck again, leaving the eastern half of the country under glacial temperatures. Fayetteville hasn’t been above freezing in four straight days, leaving fountains, ponds, creeks and lakes encased in ice.

Lucky for me, this isn’t your freezer’s ice; this is a rock-hard jewel, a crystal-clear substance that can molded into a limitless array of forms: jagged, geometric, cabochon, ropey, wavy and more. I found examples in my apartment complex, in the Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks, at the square downtown and along Lake Fayetteville, which today was almost completely frozen over. All of these varieties fascinate me, particularly because I have no idea how some of them form.

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_C1_5919Icicles work just like stalagmites and stalactites in caves, with frozen water accumulating down or up instead of solid calcium carbonate. Icicles even have the same lumpiness as cave formations and form columns in the same way when they meet.

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_C1_5954These curves mystify me, especially because they stack on top of each other like stairs, and all of them are enveloped by another, perfectly clear layer of ice. All I know is formations like these build gradually, one layer at a time.

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_C1_6094With Lake Fayetteville frozen several inches deep, we were treated to a phenomenon I’ll dub chirping ice: Throw something on the frozen surface, and a sharp, clear chirrup will ring out with each bounce. Here’s one example (start around 4:27). Here’s another. Rocks are good for the effect, but tree limbs or hunks of wood can be better, and chunks of ice are the best, skittering across the lake for a good 15 seconds with a sort of high-pitched, electronic-sounding hum. Today was my first time hearing that amazing sound in person.

A man wielding binoculars pointed out a bald eagle nearby, too as. Fish were hard to reach today, but there were a couple open patches of water the bird might’ve used. I don’t know — I didn’t see it move in several minutes’ watching.

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_C1_5959I’ve got one last consequence of the weather to show you: The waning Moon a few nights ago was ringed by an iridescent corona.

_C1_5697Circles of light and color like this ring the Moon and Sun when there’s a thin, translucent layer of clouds between us and them, especially when those clouds are made of tiny ice crystals — just one more beautiful form of ice to add to the list.

Hope you’re staying warm! Thanks for looking.

Dan

Early Sunsets

_C1_3313Suddenly it’s November and the nights get below freezing and sunset is at 5 p.m. The trees and shrubs retreat around us and we have holidays about death.

Sadly I missed most of those holidays, just catching the tail-end of a Halloween event in Fayetteville’s square, then wandering around Springdale for a few hours in an unsuccessful search for a little Day of the Dead action.

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_C1_3324That’s OK, though. Springdale had other attractions: a man who had no concern with me taking his picture while his car was repaired, a high school choir concert and a series of strikingly geometric store fronts.

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_C1_3410I always love taking pictures of groups of people right before their group portraits. Instead of a dozen of the same face, the mask is gone, and you can see a dozen different facial expressions, with their focus inward and outward and somewhere in the middle.

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_C1_3442One last thing this weekend: shooting a few photos for a pair of acquaintances, Taylor and Jess, who are in a relationship together. It was sort of an impromptu favor to give them some photos for their families. That earlier sunset I mentioned gave us about an hour of gorgeous light, while Lake Fayetteville and these two provided the scenery and cheesy sweetness.

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_C1_3772Thanks for looking,

Dan

On the Move

_C1_5481Ozark highways during summer holiday weekends are always full of trucks carrying boats and jet skis and family dogs. Grandparents holding ice cream cones and kids too excited to stay in their cars at gas stations are all on their way to Table Rock Lake or Beaver Lake or Lake of the Ozarks or any of the other lakes around here shaped like great seadragons, with their tails and tendrils and branches. The shape forms when hilly areas are dammed and flooded, and I’ll always associate it with this place.

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_C1_5526One of those Ozark highways is U.S. 412, running from one northern corner of Arkansas to the other. I went up and down a segment of this road for my Memorial Day, hoping to capture just a little bit of the tiny-town life it strings together.

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_C1_5610Speaking of Memorial Day, I’m reminded of something a veteran friend of mine pointed out. When we thank veterans for their service, maybe we’re really thanking them for going to war instead of us, for taking our place so no draft is needed and we can enjoy road trips and holiday weekends and careers that give holidays. We go, and you don’t have to, he said.

I think this perspective makes the thank-yous “for your service” and “for defending our freedom” more real and tangible. Any perspective that does that is a valuable one, I think.

I hope it was a good weekend for you. Here’s a few more images from around my apartment this weekend.

Thanks for looking,

Dan

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