The view never gets old.
In winter, the straw-colored grasslands dotted with evergreen-dark have an understated, action-suspended aspect. Snowstorms change things up now and again, padding the view as if packaging it for shipment. The white expanses and mounds, throwing shadows of bluish-gray, are pretty, and I love watching the slow-motion changes as snowmelt re-paints my surroundings. Depending on how warm the air is and whether clouds interrupt the sun at its work, shades of tan and dark green can reassert themselves in a matter of hours. Since I’m not standing around to watch the process, the progression is revealed in stop-motion images as I pause to look out the windows over the course of the day.
I’m easily amused, and I enjoy these leisurely shows. I do have to admit, however, that the muted tones of a dormant landscape begin to seem a little repetitive in by midwinter.
Fortunately, I can find color indoors. It’s just by chance that most of it runs toward pink.
The bougainvillea that lives in our stairwell put on a little show this past December, adorning several branches with papery pink bracts. My houseplants live in a tough climate; the air is dry and temperature swings wildly in a house where the thermostat is set low, leaving as much heating as is feasible to passive solar and a woodburning fireplace. I also tend to be erratic to the point of inattention when it comes to watering, which is why we have an automatic system down at the garden. For the houseplants, it’s all riding on me, so they’ve got to be tough. I think of the bougainvillea as a bit prissy because it’s the first to wilt in a gestural whine, but it moved with us here from Boulder and has survived the vagaries of my care for something like twenty years. It rarely flowers, though, and would probably do so more often if I kept my watering can act together.
For zingy color and persistence, the prize for wintertime cheer goes the Christmas cacti. I have several of them around the house, the smaller of which are cuttings off a plant my mom left with me when she moved away from Colorado in 2000. Since they’re all related, they all bloom in the same outrageous magenta pink. It’s a shade and intensity I wouldn’t normally favor, but I appreciate their flamenco-ruffle exuberance during the darkest days of our winter. They started putting on pointy little buds in late October, and are still fountaining bright flowers as February gets set to go.
I over-winter my outdoor potted plants down in the greenhouse that adjoins the barn, and I’ve been getting a daily dose of a more demure shade of pink each afternoon when I record the weather. One of the scented geraniums that spends its summers on the deck outside the kitchen was positively ecstatic about its transfer to a humid environment when I moved it inside last fall. The plant promptly exploded with clouds of girly pink blossoms, and it’s still going months later.
These off-season blooms are exotic, products of hybridization and the whims of people on the hunt for ways of brightening the northern winter, when the local flora is locked in somber and sensible dormancy. For me in this place, potted flowers are part of the “urban”: that impulse—and the ability—to tweak my habitat according to preference or taste.
But there’s still native color to be found in these deep winter days. It’s fleeting. I need to look up, not down. And I have to pay attention at the right time of day.
Our icy winters skies make for spectacular displays, especially at sunrise. There are mornings when first light sets the entire horizon aglow. These wraparound sunrises tend to come in soft pastel shades of lavender, peach, and petal pink. When conditions produce a more focused and concentrated sunrise show, colors run toward crimson or orange, sometimes veering into lurid shades, as if the world had upended overnight and magma got spilled across the sky. I’d say the fiery gleaming is almost unsettling, except that it makes such a nice break from all the pink.