The other night my husband proved the depth of his love and his insanity. We have a small cabin about 400 feet behind our home that quarters a second freezer and most of our moose. I had asked him earlier in the day to collect for me a few packages of hot moose sausage. I wanted to use the sausage to make a crock pot of cowboy stew for Lionel Haakenson’s memorial the following day. After a day of skiing and sledding, and cooking coconut shrimp for dinner we forgot about the sausage until around 10:30. As I looked at the clock and my husband in his bathrobe and I began devising plan b. However, Jeff wasn’t hearing of it. He threw on his cap, headlamp, and gloves and took off on his cross country skis. After a good laugh at his appearance I went outside to enjoy the view of him skiing through the dark in his bathrobe. That was when I saw something amazing…
One of my favorite things in Alaska is the snow. In Texas, snow mainly comes in cones or falls at crazy times like Easter and then melts within 48 hours. After living in Alaska for two and half years, I am just now beginning to understand the many facets of snow. As I watched my husband’s back disappear into the darkness, I looked out across our yard and noticed the moon light and how it cast a cool yet warming glow across the snow. When my eyes adjusted to the light, the glow grew warmer until it revealed a white blanket of diamonds.
We are at the tale end of the winter season. The weather warms to the upper 30s during the day, which causes a slow melt. At night the temperature falls back down below freezing and the snow refreezes. The night air cools the outer surface of the snow banks more than the inside. This causes the water to evaporate on the inside and then reform in a layer of frost. Sometimes the frost grains can grow so large they are called hoar frost. This “diamond” effect or hoar frost occurs in areas wherever it is cold outside and there is an ample source of water vapor. Living on the Kachemak Bay, we are in a perfect place for beautiful hoar frost to grow. At times I have seen frost flakes the size of quarters. These hexagonal prisms reflect light so they appear as fields of brilliantly cut gems.
Waiting for my husband’s return I sat thankful for the diamonds laid before me rather than on me. I looked up to also see a sky full of glimmering stars. I basked in a field of diamonds both above and below. The scene reminded me of the apropos words of the late and great Johnny Cash, “it was silent beauty shining high.”