Snow dusted the grass only a few times this winter, and the birdbath stayed full of water, not ice, for most of the season. There were, however, morning frosts, hard and brittle, leaving abstract compositions on car windshields. The midwinter frosts feel sharp, and they last long into the mornings. Sometimes they stay for days before sunlight softens them back into water.
We had our first spring frost last week. These are plump with moisture. The spring frost is a thick and luscious kind. It settles wet, soaking everything before freezing into its etch work, gently coating tender green leaves and buds in the earliest hours.
That morning, I woke and saw the sun just beginning to touch this frosted world. The gold light came in low from out over the faraway ocean, through the bare locust trees, and onto the wiry blue fescue outside my bedroom door. The whole lawn was sparkling with a mix of cool blues and whites, complemented by the orange light that spilled in from the east.
The warmth of that morning light told me this frost would last only while the shadows were still long. The spring frost is evanescent, becoming spring meltwater the instant it is touched by sun.
I did not stop to put my shoes on before going out to the lawn to see exactly how the frost had settled on the different leaves. The fescues were a million tiny towers of blue, their stalks encrusted with a fine furlike icing. At the top of each blue-green wire of grass was a perfectly clear globe of water just freed from its solid state and hanging like a glass bead by surface tension on the low side of each blade. The rounded form at each stalk’s end made me think of the fiddlehead of a fern.
The crocus flowers looked as though they had been dipped in crushed glass, purple with shards of yellow-gold tucked inside. The poppers, those early season ambassadors, held their white flowers high above all the other things just beginning to emerge from my lawn. They were lacework with frilled edges feathered out in frost. The fuzzy leaves of the lychnis looked dipped in sugar.
Mittens, the cat who visits me every morning, came over to see what I was up to. Normally he sits at the edge of the deck and watches the bird feeder. He thinks he’s camouflaged but with his unique silver stripes and markings is the most notable feature on the landscape. He looked at me crouched low, knees wet on the ground, and came over to see what I was pressing my cheeks to the ground to see. No mice here. He settled for a chin scratch and went back to his spot at the edge of the deck to watch the birds.
The shadows of each thing retreated into the base of each that cast them. In one long moment, the whole display of ice sculptures turned to water that ran down tiny stems to the soil and into the roots of flowers and stalks, gone. And everything changed. Mittens stepped soundless through the wet lawn toward his home. The leaves each drop had settled on seemed to grow. The flowers opened a little bit more.