If you truly desire to gain an authentic appreciation for winter, just leave. For twenty-four years. That's what Dick and I did. Over the span of our dual state lifestyle, we always returned to our central Minnesota home to live during the spring, summer, and autumn seasons until, in April 2017, we sold our Florida winter home to reside full time on our homestead where we have shared forty-three years of marriage. There is a Mary Englebreit greeting card which I have saved years upon years for the message it holds that resonates through to my soul. It is a quote by French author, Marcel Proust. "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
Jack Pines, which thrive in the dry conditions of a sandy woodland, are a predominant feature along one edge of our property. They are rarely intentionally grown as a landscape tree, as their drooping, crooked trunk and branches make them less desirable conifers. Let me just say that I've historically found the mature trees to be quite spooky. Until I reassessed my view of them. So much so, that Dick and I knew we wanted none other than a small Jack Pine for our Christmas tree in the north. After several treks through our woods, we spied a proud little tree which became our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. The day before Thanksgiving, we set our tree into its stand, then we drove downtown to see Brainerd's Christmas decorations that had been put up the day before. "New eyes" saw them not just as pretty wreaths draped across the street's expanse and hung from light poles, but as memories of Christmas past. And then, as my camera recorded the moment, big, fluffy snowflakes began to gently flutter down. At that instant, I was in the moment and transported to my past. Simultaneously.
After a late-autumn hard frost, if efficiently trimming perennials to ground level is your normal routine, don't. There will be time in early spring for cleaning out beds to prepare for new growth. The dried stems and branches provide texture and interest to a winter landscape all on their own, but, when covered with snow, it's like an empty room versus one arranged with furniture adorned with little touches.
And the "spooky," less-desirable Jack Pine? Fifteen years ago, we intentionally transplanted a little one at the entrance to our house's front door. It is not so little anymore. My eyes no longer see the drooping, crooked trunk and branches. Instead, I see snowy cotton balls artfully positioned on its branches as I look upon it outside my living room window. I hear the whisper of my Jack Pine, "See, I am beautiful." And I smile. March 27th post note: This morning, the sky's brilliant blue, magnified against the snow's blinding white, was the view out our front door after yesterday's heavy snowfall.