It was daybreak without sunrise, overcast. The fierce, brutal winds that blasted through the first two days of the year had largely abated, but the air was very cold. At the tree line, on the edge of the field above the stream, only a gentle breeze moved. Most of the time it seemed to come from the north, but at times it would pulse gently, as if the atmosphere were breathing, and then it would shift and gust.
The snowflakes fell lazily, sometimes sparsely, sometimes more thickly, until a breezy gust blew them horizontal. Then they looked more like asteroids streaming through space than water crystals. Overhead, against a light grey sky, they looked dark, like bits of airborne litter or ash. Once for a few minutes the clouds parted to let a bit of blue sky through, but then they closed again. Shifts in wind and changes in light were all small, undramatic, scarcely noticeable.
Except for the slow, slight swaying of the tallest popple trees, the only living things stirring were black-capped chickadees. At first there were half a dozen of them, flitting and chipping, up in the highest branches, searching for food. After a while, there were none, and no other birds took their place.
Once in a while a heavy load of snow on a slender branch exploded in a tiny, noiseless puff and tumbled to the ground.
Leaves of grasses curled against the white ground like Arabic writing. Each dried umbel of Queen-Anne’s-lace held a small mound of snow within its curved ribs, and no two of these intricate snow-catchers were the same.
Our little nameless stream was hidden beneath the snow. No sound of the stream’s trickling challenged the wind, but the low, deep, rumbling roar of Lake Michigan, its waters still tossing from two days of wind, never ceased.
Later, at 10 o’clock, the temperature for Northport was recorded at 14 degrees Fahrenheit.