Snow sculpting

Some versions of this blog are headed with one of my snow sculptures – a guy on a chaise longue with a beer. Today I went to see how the pros do it. But we’ll start with my first-ever sculpture in 1987.

I was visiting back home from California and it started snowing. The friends I was staying with (my old housemates) were out and I sculpted this little guy on their front steps. They took a picture with their daughter when they got home.

I once sculpted a bike for a contest. Bicycling magazine wanted a picture to know why you needed a new bike. I said I was worried that mine would melt. I didn’t win.

Beach scenes became a favorite, since snow looks like sand if you use your imagination.

I’ve been wanting to do one of a family playing on the beach with the kids making sand castles, but I no longer have any of my kids’ old swimsuits to dress them in. Since I only think of it in the winter, I can’t get to a thrift store to buy them, since they’re not stocked.

I’ve tried a few gargoyles and lions on the newel posts, but I like this guy better.

Now let’s see how the pros do it.

Detail from figure above
Rear view of selfie above
Detail of mouth above (note uvula)

For fine detail, it helps to start with a compressed block of snow. I start from nothing and build up. The pros start from a block and carve.

While digging through an old hard drive to find a couple of pictures, I came across this poem. I don’t know when I wrote it, because I just fixed a typo so it shows today’s date. Since it rose to 9 degrees (-13 C) today, it seemed like a fitting time to stick it in here.

You call this cold?
You must be new here.
Shit, it ain’t been cold here 
in twenty, thirty years.

It stopped bein’ cold ‘bout the time
they invented wind chill.
Ya ever notice they invented wind chill just before
they started talkin’ ‘bout
Global Warming? 
That’s so you wouldn’t notice 
it wasn’t as cold anymore.

Cold is when the diesel 
turns to jelly
and trucks won’t start
so there’s not deliveries until
at least noon when the sun might warm up 
the fuel 
enough to flow.

Cold is when you blow your nose
and the snot freezes 
before it hits the ground.
Cold is when your fingers and toes turn white and
get numb
so numb that if you take off
your mitten
and bite your fingertips
you don’t feel anything.

Cold is when your glasses don’t fog up
they ice up
and you have to scrape off
the ice with your fingernail if you want 
to see.

Cold is when the wind 
makes your eyes water 
and the tears freeze on your eyelashes
so you 
clink when you blink.


“No exposed flesh” is a reasonable dictum in mid-January. When winter is still six weeks away, it is almost enough to make a long-term resident cry “uncle!”

The temperature should not be in the single digits (Fahrenheit) in early November. When I got my bike out of the garage to go to work, the wheels wouldn’t turn. The tires were frozen solidly to the fenders and I had to chip them loose before I could roll the bike out of the garage. It wasn’t quite icy enough to lace up the skates but it was close. I usually put the studded tires on between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I may have to move that up to tonight. [And yes, the studded snow tires are now on.]

Meanwhile, corn and soybeans are still in the fields. Fall was too wet to harvest. Now the beans are beansicles. Flood watches are not normally issued in late fall around here, but we have them again this week. On the other hand, the university crew was out rowing yesterday. It may be below freezing, but the lake is still liquid, so they can still train on the water.

This is the first fall in memory in which I mowed the lawn and shoveled snow in the same week. The wet fall meant the grass had not yet gone dormant even after the first snowfall. Green leaves fell during the first snowstorm.

Usually we wonder if we’ll have a white Christmas. This year was a white Halloween/Samhain/Día de los Muertos.

“Winter Wonderland” Chet Baker (but it’s still fall!)

Checking my old backup hard drive, I came across a little something I did back in 2007. It was the magazine open on the lap of the snowperson in the photo below.

I also found a picture of my old bike.

Lake freezing before my eyes
Rowing season may have just ended. But I was wrong – they were out the day after this photo was taken. I don’t think the crew bought an icebreaker.
Might be time to get the piers and boat hoists in before it’s too late.

The half-fast cycling club got together to do what we do best, in accordance with our slogan: “When the going gets tough, the half-fast go for a beer.” The occasion was the 25th anniversary of a local brewpub, and even those we haven’t seen on a bike all year showed up. Not to be dropped by the group, I spent the week in training with single malt Scotch.

If it’s too cold and snowy for you to want to ride (we’ve already set records for both), and you’re in Madison WI, save the date: Sunday, December 8 at 3PM at Trinity Lutheran Church for “War and Peace: Music of Remembrance” with the Choral Arts Society.

Giving thanks

It is 15 degrees F (approx -10 C). The sun is bright. The sky is a brilliant blue. There are no clouds. There is no wind. We have fresh snow, so the sun glints off of countless facets. It is the sort of day that those who don’t live in snowy climes may not be able to appreciate, and those who do often forget to appreciate.

As I rode home from the library, I began to ruminate over things I am thankful for (most, in some way, related to this blog). I am thankful for:

  • construction workers who work outside all day all winter long.
  • constrgarbage trucks blocking the road so I can practice my cyclocross skills.
  • shanty
    ice fishing shanty, snowy day

    the lake near my house that becomes a massive and nearly private park in the winter. After skating on the street last Sunday, I skiied across the lake this Sunday.

  • Ally, Ed, and Steve – who turned a 105 mile slog through 40 degree (4 degrees C) rain inIMG_0363to something do-able. While they claim misery loves cold raincompany, company can also make it not misery, as evidenced by this smile at the end of that day. (Not to mention that we were even smiling for the picture.)
  • Steve (a different Steve) and Kevin, who stuck with me through thick and thin (and thinner) on a long and hard day in the heat and headwind.
  • Anders, who picked up a new helmet for me at the end of said long day, so I could Andersride again the next day.
  • the entire Cycle America staff, for handling the logistics so we could ride. A special shout out to Ed (a different Ed) for delightful surprises on the routes; and to Dan, who never met a hill he didn’t like.
  • the half-fast cycling club, including those I started riding with more than 40 years ago, and those I haven’t yet met.
  • the glaciers which all managed to miss the driftless area, making for great bike riding in the area of the Horribly Hilly Hundreds (and to HHH, as I just learned that I was selected in the lottery to ride this year).
  • icicles. Snow to sculpt.
  • the Parks Department, for plowing the bike paths.IMG_1494.jpg
  • public libraries.
  • getting old. I’ve seen a lot of folks the past couple of weeks with broken ribs from slipping and falling on the ice. Many tell me how horrible it is to get old.  I think it beats the alternative.