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The Shadows of Winter

Message in a Bottle #5

Have you ever noticed how the shadows change in the winter? Their color? Their deep silence? I have and it has captured my fascination ever since I first loved snow.

If you don’t have the fortune of living in a place in the world where the temperatures drop to a frigid tundra and the land gets blanketed in white, at least for a little while, you are even less likely to have noticed this extraordinary wonder, but perhaps not fully excused.

For the longest time I don’t even think I knew why I loved snow. I just did.

Snow gives me feelings that I think ice cream does for other people. It makes me think of childhood and days that nothing really mattered but getting the most out of this gift dropped out of the sky before it was gone for the year. Snow took my boundless imagination and stretched it even further. The whitened landscape was like a canvas wiped clean and practically begged my younger brother and I to build castles and create worlds in its crystal playground. It invited us on new adventures everyday. Ice chunks were precious gems we mined from arctic caverns and the most obscure indentations in the backyard were any type of building or home we wanted them to be. We ran restaurants and served every kind of food we could think of, all of it just clumps of snow. The ever growing pile on the edge of the yard, created from the plowing of our massive driveway, became an inn made out of the hollowed out remains of a dragon felled in ancient times and preserved by mysterious means, which we cleverly called The Dragon’s Innsides. And as that mound slowly melted, always remaining the last bit of snow in the soggy yard, we’d pack up shop until next year’s blizzards came around.

Now, though I have long admired the blue shadows of winter, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to ask the question “why?” a lot.

Why do I love it?

Why are they blue?

On my search for an explanation for this precious oddity, I found it can’t exactly be fully explained, at least not in my opinion. But from the more understandable theories I could find, I landed on two explanations with equal significance.

The first is due to the blue sky, as the shadows will only appear blue on a day that the sky and sun are at least partly visible. On overcast days the shadows will look more grey than anything. The snow bounces and reflects the ambient blue light of the sky. It does this in and out of the shadows but we only see it in the shadows where the more direct light of the sun has been blocked.

Makes sense to me.

The second reason is a bit more complicated and involves the theory that snow is actually blue or at least will appear so, because though water in all its forms is clear, it is a constant and well know fact that in its purest form, out of all the colors our eyes can perceive, it will always appear blue. This is because of the way water molecules absorb long wavelength light like blues and scatter short wavelength light like yellow. Very much like how sunlight streaming through the semi translucent walls of an ice cave looks blue, other forms of h2o (water or snow) will do the same.

So, we know the science behind the optical sights, but why is it so beautiful? Why is it so comforting?

I don’t know if it needs to be explained, I don’t know if it should be, but I do know it’s the very same with the sky and the sea. Cloud gazing isn’t the same without a cerulean backdrop to lose yourself in. And the ocean is a place of peace and healing for many people, including myself. Though I think there are some things created in this life that are too complicated and wonderful to understand, it can not be ignored that some of the credit for that quality of solace can be given simply to the color blue.

I’m sure some extremely smart person could tell me the science behind this too, but I don’t have to study neurology to know, blue does something to our minds. It calms us and makes us feel safe. And when were in environments washed in azure magic we can breath a sigh of rest and sometimes find healing a little easier.

I’m at a loss for words when I think about it all and I haven’t even gotten to the best part! All of that acknowledged and still the most incredible thing to me is that we have a God who knew all this before He even set the world on it’s perfect axis. He knew that the color blue would comfort us, He made it this way and then He created some of the most beautiful, constant, and enveloping things on this planet and out of all the colors He created, He painted them blue.

So next time you’re on a chilly walk, snow crunching beneath your heavy boots, your own breath puffing visibly from your mouth, maybe even cursing the very same cold responsible for numbing your lips and toes, take a look up and notice how the blue collects beneath the sleeping, barren trees or behind the snow banks piled six feet high, and know a Creator deliberately painted it to be so and He did it for you and I.

Your captain,

Ellie Maureen


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