Splendor of Winter
Now comes the dark season of the year, when the sun has traveled to regions south of the equator, and its long rays barely warm the frozen lands to the north.
Cooling temperatures bring crystals of ice, frost and snow over the northern earth, robbing plants of their foliage and fruits, and threatening man and other creatures with cold, hunger and inconvenience.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day of all the year is Sunday, Dec. 22, when, at precisely 9:02 a.m. EST, the sun's rays will fall directly on a point in the Atlantic Ocean about 800 miles east of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Here the rays will touch the Tropic of Capricorn, that imaginary line 23 degrees south of the equator, and the farthest point south that the perpendicular rays of the sun will travel. Now life in the north seems at its lowest ebb, with the sun only a dull red ember, skimming low over the horizon.
Woods and Fields of Quiet
In the woods and fields, there is little noise. Squirrels, chipmunks, mice and groundhogs lie silent in their burrows, asleep in a hibernating trance that slows their life processes. Geese, ducks, warblers and many singing birds have long since left the naked shrubs and trees in their southward search for sun and warmth.
Insects are stilled, their empty gossamer bodies crushed under the snow, or their eggs and larvae resting out the cold season under the porch steps or deep in the frozen ground. Only animals such as the deer, the great cats and the hardy crows roam the silent wilderness in search of food.
It is the time of year when the world seems to lie silent, drab, dark and dead. Yet one has only to stand quietly in the woods or in his back yard to hear the crackling and grinding or watch the shimmer of a special world that is very much alive-a scientific world of water crystals that push, grow, shatter, ebb and flow with amazing precision and austere beauty.