The Beauty Of A Winter’s Frost

By Marnie Dresser | February 26, 2016


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Frost is one of the blessings and curses of winter – beautiful but also potentially dangerous. Writer Marnie Dresser has experienced a bit of both.  


Here’s a game I like to play on winter mornings when I’m scraping my windshield.  I try to think of what all the frost looks like, using only words that start with the letter “f.” Most often there are feathers and flowers and ferns.  Other times I’ve noticed flames and fire and I swear, one time, a fleur-de-lis.  It usually takes a few weeks of scraping before I remember “fractal.”  Fur sometimes, as in animal.  And fir sometimes, as in Fraser.

Jack Frost is one of the consolations of winter for me. We see him inside our house, too. As much as I love those wavy panes of old glass in our windows, Jack seems to love them even more.  My husband once photographed one of our iced-over windows as the sun hit it and began to melt the frost. Gorgeous.

Sometimes, though, it’s nightmarish. On one of those sub-zero mornings when it had also snowed, my husband very nicely shoveled a path to the car and cleared the snow off the windshield. What with dealing with snow and the normal bedlam of getting my son to school on time, it didn’t occur to either of us to let the car warm up. Normally I would, but this time I didn’t. Everything was fine on Rainbow Road, leaving Spring Green, but by the time I headed up the railroad overpass bridge, right before the Wisconsin River Bridge, I couldn’t see at all. The entire windshield had frosted over on the INSIDE. I had to roll down the passenger side window to see how close to the railing I was as I pulled over.

I turned on my hazard lights and tried to say calm things to my son as we waited for the car to warm up so the defroster could do its job.  Once we started going again, we saw the most amazing thing—a chunk of rainbow, kind of an overdeveloped shin of a rainbow, gliding just ahead of us in the trees, and then on the fields, almost all the way to his school.

Because I grew up Baptist, I mentioned God using the rainbow to tell Noah he would never destroy the world again by flood (which I never found very comforting as a child—I wished he’d said, “I’ll never destroy the world again. Period.”) And I thought of the Israelites in the wilderness, led by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night.

This was not a rainbow pillar, though. It was also not a spectre of the brocken.  I think it was some sort of halo or sundog, both caused by ice hexagons floating and reflecting.

Whatever it was, it was comforting. We made it to school o.k., and I felt only mildly traumatized as I drove back home and saw the tracks in the snow where we’d pulled over. It was, after all, a not-terribly-surprising Wisconsin winter occurrence. We didn’t hit anything and nothing hit us. And we got a prismatic escort.

The next morning, as the car was warming up and I was scraping off the windshield, I thought of another f-word for frost—freckles. A happy little sprinkling of freckles, like a nose that’s been out in the summer sun.


Marnie Dresser

Marnie Dresser is a writer and professor at UW – Richland County.
2018-01-19T17:52:51-06:00Tags: , , , , , , |

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