by Tom Koob
Today I found frost flowers.
The night had been clear and cold; the first hard cold snap. It was a bright, crisp morning. The sun shone in clear yellows through the now mottled leaves that the oaks and hickories reluctantly refused to release. A path ambled through the forest. And there at the edge of the path, the thin stems of crownbeard had burst forth their frozen formations.
A phenomenon brought about by the vagaries of nature, weather and physics. The small plants brought life-giving water and nutrients up from the still warm, rocky soil. Reaching the narrow stems, surrounded by the chill air, the water froze, expanded and split the slender stalks. The ice crystals oozed out of the broken plant, forming whorls and papery sheets. The crownbeard continued to pump its life force up and out through capillary action and the frost flowers grew.
I knelt down to examine the creations closely. The sunlight sparkled on the delicate forms- translucent, geometric shapes curling and wrapping around themselves. Tiny droplets of water formed at the edges. These formations were ephemeral. Created by the quick change in temperature, they would slowly melt in the warming morning sunlight.
To me, the frost flowers were bittersweet- a capricious gift of nature, delicate and beautiful. But also melancholy- a reminder of life’s limits, the struggle to survive and our tiny place in this vast world. Frost flowers occur rarely and fleetingly, only when nature sees fit to produce the perfect conditions.
I was glad I saw them. They put a smile on my face and reminded me of the wonder and artistry of the natural world. Perhaps next year, in autumn, when the first hard freeze comes, I will have the pleasure of seeing frost flowers again.