January in northwestern Minnesota is cold. Fields lay beneath snowscapes of sculpted drifts, sometimes windblown in peaked escarpments, sometimes divoted as if by choppy waters, sometimes rippled in gentle waves. Ditches so deep that in spring they might serve as transport canals are in January filled with snow and flush with roads. This week’s blizzard winds, followed by -27 F temperatures cemented the frozen January landscape. In January the landscape is lonely.
But in January there is life. Crows flew in tandem south of our field this afternoon. Wrapped against the cold in my hat, hood, and headscarf, the caws of crows caused me to look up. Together they climbed, then dove, unconcerned by the stiff afternoon wind. Where do they winter? I wondered, how do they withstand the extreme cold? When I complain of frozen feet and chilled fingers, where do crows derive their warmth?
Tracks of rabbits, mice, fox and hares abound in January. Larger than fox, coyote tracks wend their way across fields and through the Juneberry and chokecherry shrubs. Snow dens are visible in drift embankments. Ruffed grouse wings are imprinted on the softer, sheltered drifts. Life and death struggles are frozen in time, there to remain until the next snowfall or blizzard lays down yet another canvas on which life might be painted.
The January landscape is cold, yes. Lonely, true. But temporary.