Winter Canvas

Jack Frost at my window

The house I live in is more than 90 years old. It has been renovated many times and its windows are a patchwork of brands and types and ages.  There’s hinged casement windows by Anderson at the house’s front and back, a pair of single-hung Pella Energy Stars along one side. A four-pane bay fronts the street, and there’s even an old transom window, with its painted-over brass latch and chain in the mud room off the deck – the only window still original to the house.

But the ones I am most conscious of right now are the older, double hung type, with cheap sliding screens and storms – those with the spring-loaded catches that break your nails and scrape your knuckles each spring and fall, wrestling them into place for the coming season. On the one hand, they remain the least efficient, most drafty of all my windows.  On the other hand, these are the windows that still provide a winter canvas for Jack Frost.

Jack Frost's handiwork

These crystal-covered panes take me back to childhood. The magic of the winter-scapes painted in the night and dissolved by prismed sunlight’s invisible eraser, always fascinated me. As a child I thrilled to see the complex, fractal patterns of these crystal veils and the perfect single snowflakes that edged the ice-lace borders.  Lace, yes, but better and more intricate than even any Point de Gaze or Duchesse lace could ever be.

It was terribly tempting to make my own mark on this crystal canvas – write my name or just leave my fingerprints as an interaction, a participation in the alchemy of frost. I was disappointed in myself whenever I did, though.  It was an intrusion that did not improve the experience – like having your mother ‘fix’ the icing on the cake you had just finished frosting all by yourself.

As I write, it has been snowing steadily since yesterday. All my neighbors are out shoveling, the snowplows gun themselves up and down each drive and I’ve gone out to clear the front walk for the mailman.   And as necessaryDSC00518 as these actions are, I miss the pristine blanket of the snow that lay across the neighborhood as I looked out this morning before dawn.

There is a beauty that the winter brings to everything, and I am just a little sad that the busy-ness of all our lives require that we erase its magical perfection.

At least my drafty windows will  remain a gallery for Jack’s frosted handiwork, unspoiled, until sun or rising temperatures wipe his canvas clean.

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