Polar Pages

“There was, said Claudio Abbado, a certain sound to snow.  It did not come from walking on it.  If you stood on a balcony, too, you could hear it.  A falling snow, fading away to nothing, pianissimo, like a breath.  You could hear it only if you listened to what some supposed was silence.” (Claudio Abbado’s obituary in The Economist).



This winter has brought us more snow and cold than usual here in the Northeast of the U.S.  Certainly not as much as my neighbors up North.  And I’ll take snowstorms and frigid temperatures over the constant rain my friends and family experienced in some parts of Europe.

Because other than the odd day of snow, the days are filled with sunshine.

And these calm, cold days invite us to examine each detail of each branch with the curiosity of a child.

My crabapple tree:



My rhododendron in its icy casing:



This harsh winter has also affected my reading choices.  Rather than escape to warmer climates, I have been drawn to books about Antarctica.

Ernest Shackleton’s South. Gavin Francis’ Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence and Emperor Penguins. Dr. Jerri’s Nielsen’s Ice Bound: A Doctor’s Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole.



Reading about people colder than I am puts my situation in perspective (at least I’m not stuck in the Antarctic ice with Shackleton, I tell myself).

It also feeds my imagination as I walk my dog in minus zero wind chill temperatures (just a little farther and we’ll make it to the South Pole, I murmur, wind howling against my face as I pretend to be on a polar expedition with my 14 year old Border Terrier).


She’s mastered the art of walking on ice quite well. ©readinginterrupted.com

Most of all, I love being reminded of the beauty of snow and ice and winter.

“Wordsworth said that stone held acquaintance with the stars. Thinking of the simplicity of the world around me, the quantum sliding into the stellar, I could think the same of ice. There was a quality to its brittle purity, its cold strength, that was echoed in the stars above. And in a world of ice starlight is often all the light you need.” (Gavin Francis, Empire Antarctica  Ice, Silence and Penguins)

That’s not to say that I’m not looking forward to Spring’s arrival and a new reading theme.

And despite the arrival of another snowstorm tomorrow evening, my witch-hazel is in bloom signaling that one day, perhaps only a few snowstorms away, Spring will be here.


89 thoughts on “Polar Pages

  1. I felt cold just reading this post! I have absolutely no tolerance for cold weather. It’s currently around 17 degrees Celsius here in Lebanon and I already think it’s freezing!

    Those were lovely pictures, Letizia! Stay warm please; wouldn’t want you catching a cold! 🙂

  2. I love your words and your photos – I definitely wish we’d had some of your snow here in northern England! Love your dog’s photo – I have a 19 month old Border Terrier and he’s the best thing that ever happened to us 🙂

  3. I needed to read this as we prepare for yet another Mid-Atlantic something-or-other storm (ice? snow? sleet? how many inches?) Yes, winter is beautiful and yes, my witchazel is also blooming (which is great considering I transplanted it only four months ago) and yes, spring is sending us tendrils which will eventually take hold and pull the rest of it here. But in the meantime, I can still observe and listen to the snow/rain/sleet and dream of warmer days.

  4. Letizia, The quote you’ve included is stunning and so true. I’ve heard snow falling. And this reminds me of the ending of James Joyce’s classic story, The Dead. It’s the most beautiful and heartbreaking story I’ve ever read.

    You make me long for the cold. We’re finally having a bit of winter, here, with rain falling on my windshield as I type. I’ve got my Wifi card on and sitting in the car during my son’s cartooning class held in Golden Gate Park.

    I do think your dog is giving you a “why can’t you take me to Florida” look. 😀

    • I just reread the last lines of “The Dead” – so fitting, you’re right. I can never reread Joyce’s short stories enough.

      I was thinking of you when I saw the California weather report. After so much drought, now you get so much rain, oh dear….Too much of one or the other, how crazy. I’m delighted to hear that your son is in a cartooning class though – I love his drawings.

      Funnily enough, my dog seems to love the cold! I don’t know how she copes without a wool hat and gloves, haha!

  5. I love the picture of the crabapple tree. I was thinking about what a challenging jigsaw puzzle that would make. I’d probably give up long before I finished. 🙂

    I guess I should be reading a Nordic thriller now. Sounds like it would make this cold, icky winter more tolerable!

  6. My winter here in Tennessee has been nothing compared to yours, but I’m ready for it to move on, as well! Beautiful pics and post, as usual! Is there anything that you don’t do well?

    • I sometimes wonder if a tough winter in Tennessee or any warmer zone isn’t tougher in a way because people aren’t as equipped. At least here we’re used to snow and cold so we have all of gear set up. People even cross-country ski in the park the day after a snowstorm – it’s such a lovely sight!

      • Now that’s a VERY interesting thought that I’d never considered. Plus, with our hills, when you’re snowed in, you’re REALLY snowed in.

        Wow. Skiing in a park? That’s awesome!

  7. As always, I enjoyed you post and pictures, Letizia. I sit here in an early morning chill of 24C, ha! and you’re making me cold. I grew up in the South and as a child loved the snow. As a hunter in my early age I still remember sitting in the forest listening to the snow. It’s not quite, but soft a pleasing to the ear. Thank you for reminding me. Stay warm.

    • Ah, the morning chill of 24C, haha! Every time I take hours to put on my coat, gloves, hat, boots, etc. before leaving the house I think of the upcoming summer months when all I’ll have to do is slip on a pair of sandals.

  8. Letizia, what a glorious post – a poem to the beauty and the mystery of snow… which I adore…Your quotes were gorgeous too…we are both Antartic afficionadoes I can see… I love Shackleton… and have you read Cherry Garrard’s The worst journey in the world? I’m about to start Francis Spuffords’ I may be some time’, and then have a couple called Artcic and Antartic edited by Elizabeth Kolbert…. and others… !!

    • I’ve read The Worst Journey in the World but I’m not ‘I may be some time’ nor Kolbert’s edited work so I will happily add those to my polar collection, thank you! There’s something about the Antarctic that draws us in, isn’t there? Thank you for your dear words, Valerie.

  9. Thank you for a beautiful post! I love your photography. And, glad you mentioned Shackleton. What he’d done to seek help to rescue his crew was nothing short of heroic. At one time, I’d developed an ESL teaching unit based on his experience. While I was researching materials on him in that project, I found out that Harvard Business School studied Shackleton in their course on Leadership. A great hero indeed. At least for me here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada—I sure need his inspiration to go through our winter—we’re having -30’s C, plus windchill, -40C this weekend.

    • How interesting to know that Shackleton is used in a leadership course (not surprising, of course). What a great subject for an ESL course too – your students must have loved it. I always love rereading his story and whenever there’s a documentary on it, I watch it as if I had never heard the story before; it’s just so captivating. With the -40 temperatures this weekend, you must feel like you are on an Antarctic adventure yourself, poor thing! It’s been a harsh winter for you guys up north; polar indeed.

  10. Great post. Isn’t Shackleton inspiring? Incredible that they all came out alive, except the brave dogs 😦 As for rain versus snow, I don’t know. We’ve had our share of rain lately in Seattle, but if snow is required it’s only 40 minutes away, and lots of it!

    • That’s the nice thing about the Pacific Northwest – you have everything within a short distance, not too bad! Every time I’ve gone to Seattle, it’s been sunny so I think the rain is a myth, haha 🙂

      Yes, Shackleton’s dogs… sigh.

  11. Beautiful post and beautiful pictures. Our Belgian winter is on number two on a list of the warmest winter seasons ever recorded. I had an espresso (and dark chocolate) outside this morning. Yeah!

    • Espresso and chocolate out in the garden with Mr. Bowie, how wonderful! I’ll have to wait a few weeks before I can do that with my dog unless I want to turn into a snowman 🙂

  12. Your dog is adorable and 14! That’s great. Our Boston terrier turns 12 this spring. He still loves his walks and yes, he’s much better on the ice than me.

    • They’re lucky they have their claws, aren’t they? I call them “ice claws” – very practical to have. She loves walking in all seasons and, as you know, being forced to walk your dog in all weather makes you notice all sorts of wonderful things you wouldn’t otherwise and really appreciate nature, even if you are cold and wet afterwards, haha!

      • I feel for dogs who have owners who don’t take them out every day. For me there’s no choice. I just have to put on the right clothes and go. Miles insists 🙂

  13. Lovely post Letizia. I love the silence of the snow and your beautiful photos show just what a winter should look like. In fact, that was my garden this time last year but this year we have had nothing but rain and storm surges in the UK as you know. No snow to date 😦 Signs of spring, however, are everywhere as with you and that is what amazes me that despite the bitter cold the buds still burst back into life as soon as the ice and snow all melt away. Your book sounds great, perfect for the weather, I’m reminded of Scott of the Antarctic. I love your dog, such a cutie 🙂

    • It is amazing to see signs of Spring despite all the snow. A week or two of warm weather and the landscape will be transformed! It must have been tough to have all of the rain – I hope your garden did not suffer too much with the flooding and such.

      Thanks for the lovely words about Baffi, my dog – she is a sweetie, indeed 🙂

  14. Beautiful description of winter accompanied with beautiful photography, Letzia. I am not a fan of cold but I love the silence it brings. Your quotes describe it well. I’ve read Shackleton’s books and was spellbound and froze through the PBS documentaries. Dr. Jerri’s Nielsen’s Ice Bound was truly inspiring. She spent time with a neighbor of mine (who has house concerts ) before she died. Here’s to warmer weather for you and that cutie of a dog.

      • She died in ’09. Brave woman.My book club read it and we were so hoping we could include her in the meeting while she was visiting her friend on the island. She couldn’t squeeze it in and then we learned later, how sick she was getting, again.

  15. I have lived with snow all of my life, especially in my early years. Winter has become my refuge, a time to reflect, re-group, re-evaluate.

    Winter is a time for home comings where a hot cup of tea awaits a weary traveler. Winter is a time for libraries, books, music, poetry. Winter’s bitter chill has a rejuvenating affect. For me, it is a time of rest, preparing for the rebirth of spring. You captured all of those thoughts and more in your post.

    Always a joy….

    “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
    ― Edith Sitwell

    • What a beautiful ode to winter. I love that winter is a moment of rejuvenation for you, a preparation for the spring. It’s wonderful to look at it like this, a moment of hibernation and a moment to recharge. “A time for home” Yes.

  16. It’s good that you’ve embraced the conditions, appreciated them even Letizia. Much better than hating the whole thing and hanging on miserably for it all to end. Those are nice pics. Here we’ve had floods and storms but have been spared the cold.

    • I’d rather have a bit of cold than the floods that you’ve had to deal with. That looked quite dreary! I hope the Spring sun is starting to make her appearance and dry things off a bit for you.

  17. Beautiful, icy pictures! All of my flowers and bushes are buried, so I cannot take pics of them. And, my apple tree is looking unhappy with all of the snow. I feel sorry for it! Your dog is adorable. How does he manage all the snow with those short legs? 🙂

    • Luckily we had a couple of warm days in between each big snow storm so the snow would melt a bit to avoid the nonstop accumulation you must have had. You must be looking forward to seeing the color green again! I do wonder what shape some of my buried bushes will take when it all thaws, don’t you?

      Each time it snows I shovel a path in the garden for my dog. Over time, the walls surrounding the path have become taller than my dog, but at least she can walk around the garden a bit in between our daily walks. And when it got very cold the snow froze and she loved walking/skating on top, haha!

    • I love to hear about the different signs of Spring in various parts of the world. I didn’t know sap lines were installed around this time of the year. I’ll have a waffle and maple syrup tomorrow morning to mark the moment!

  18. Lovely, I miss snow. I loved the sound of snow and the lunar landscapes of deep snow in the dark…thank you for putting me in those memories.

  19. Wonderful pictures, especially the reminder that there is such a thing as Spring. How was the Shackleton book, I didn’t take that over with me this year so missed out on reading that and Scott’s diaries.

    I love your imagination, imagining you were at the poles, it makes me feel a little less embarrassed imagining I am James Bond whenever the opportunity presents itself.

    • Shackleton is a good read – I recommend it.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who imagines herself to be a hero or adventurer during my daily activities!

      • If we all took on a different persona towns and city centres would be entertaining in a new and exciting way.

        I shall wrack the Shack for the next frosty season then.

  20. Even though I am not on speaking terms with Winter currently, you captured her sinister beauty magnificently. They have been running out of salt here, so the roads have been super dangerous. Definitely ready for some spring in the air!

    Your dog is such a cutie pie!

    • Your winter has been much harsher than ours so I can just imagine how ready you are to shake off your winter coat (physically and metaphorically) and welcome Spring!

  21. What a chilly post! My Mom Person really dislikes cold weather. I have a very hard time getting her out when it’s the least bit chilly. But she loves reading about polar explorations. She has a shelf full of south pole adventure. I like hearing about all the dogs that went on those trips. Except when they got left behind. I like the cold, but I’m looking forward to spring too. Warmer temps mean trips to the river!

    • I love reading about the dogs on those polar adventures too, but it’s heartbreaking when they are left behind. I read those passages very quickly.

      Dogs do seem to enjoy walking in the cold more than their people, haha!

  22. Your musings of the ice and snow are truly lovely. You are quite right that when we read about places far worse off than our own habitat (whether that be in terms of weather, war or otherwise) that we take more comfort and gratitude in our own conditions. Wishing you a wonderful day –and I hear spring is coming soon 🙂

    • It’s good to put things in perspective, right? I’m not surprised you would pick up on that and apply it to other, more important situations. You have a beautiful, sensitive heart… the heart of a poet.

  23. Hi Letizia,
    I do so understand and enjoy the sound of snow. It’s almost like the air thickens and makes each individual incident and event for the news. Hadn’t thought to read about more cold, as I wear my sweaters inside, and bundle up in several layers just to take the dog to the dog park each day. I think the minus double-digits are gone for the year, but my ski pants stand at the ready–just in case. Meanwhile, our first yellow crocuses have started to pop up, and with them hope for a wonderful spring ahead. Xox to your Border Terrier.

    • Always good to keep the ski pants at the ready just in case, haha! But hopefully Winter is behind us. How lovely to see your first crocuses! I’ve seen some snowdrops in the few patches of grass exposed and I was leaping from glee. Just seeing the patches of grass after so much snow was a welcome change of landscape even. Enjoy the change of seasons, Liesa.

    • Rain and slush make for a terrible winter – ick! Hopefully all that rain will bring you a lovely Spring though. Thanks for visiting and commenting – lovely to be introduced to you and your blog!

    • I’m always fascinated to watch how resist the cold also. The way they hold their leaves against themselves in protection and then when it gets a bit warmer, the leaves let go again.

      You have beautiful Rhododendrons!

  24. Such a familiar sight. I think we had snow on the ground every day of January and most of February. It’s been quite a winter.

    Like you, though, I enjoy reading wintertime books in winter. Actually, I like reading books set in the same months that I’m reading them any time of year. I haven’t read many books set in Antarctica (a few), but I love books about blizzards. If you haven’t read the nonfiction book ‘The Children’s Blizzard,’ I highly recommend it. It’s made me look at cold weather differently. I try to be prepared for disaster now.

    • “The Children’s Blizzard” – I’ll make note of that one, thanks! It has been quite a winter, hasn’t it? We’ve had two days of Spring-like weather now and the snow is slowly melting, revealing patches on brown grass, happy snowdrops, oddly shaped boxwoods. I might be ready for some Spring reading soon 🙂

  25. I’m still loving the snow too – all the amazing designs and the sound. It can be so delicate in so many ways. For some reason, I end up reading about the opposite weather even if I’m enjoying the ongoing weather. I’m going to have to try doing it your way. It sounds like that helps you to appreciate whatever season it is even more.

    • You’ve been on my mind, Sheila, as I just finished reading “The Cage”! A good read to conclude my ‘Polar Vortex’ Reading Marathon – thank you for the recommendation. You are right, the snow can be so delicate in so many ways.

      • I’ve been thinking about you too. I’ve been away with no internet and it’s hard to get back into the swing of things, but I’ve missed you and our goat friends! 🙂

  26. We’ve been following and hearing (from our children in the US) about the extreme cold this year. You seem to be making the best of it. Your pictures are lovely. I’ve just seen a little bit of snow in my life, and the Christmas we spent in the US in Maryland, it did not snow! I hope you have a lovely spring now….

    • What a shame it didn’t snow the one time you spent Christmas in Maryland. I love snow at Christmas. And being from France, I love to ski as well. Having said all that, the snow is slowly starting to melt, and I am very excited to see the Spring bulbs slowly come out!

  27. What a beautiful post, the photos are so amazing, but got to say I love your dog she is so beautiful, she sure has master the art of walking in snow, you have a cute dog Letizia.

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