They’re predicting -6° F. by next weekend.

But winter is definitely showing signs of cracking.

The change has begun!

Sure, there’s an icy draft when you open the door, but we’re on the threshold of the next season.



Which is “Mud.”

But also, Puddles.



As we get a few thaws, I’ve been thinking about all these puddles.  And dictionaries.

It occurred to me,  that “puddle” was one of those words I’d never actually looked up.  You just seemed to know what it was, at a very early age, and know instinctually that it was something to jump into, no matter what the grown-ups said, or whether or not you were wearing boots, or were on your way to visit someone, whose house had white wool carpets.

My parents always encouraged us to look up words, and when we were in grade school, plunked a Webster’s down in the middle of the kitchen table.  And looking up this word, reminded me of grade school, homework, and how I dreaded “Oral Presentation Day.”

My teachers were all great – –  encouraging, prompting, and doing their best to make it all fun and rewarding.  But some days, despite their best efforts, the oral presentations were awful, seemingly endless, and it was like having cheerleaders during root canal surgery.  When a kid started off with a dictionary definition, it generally meant you were in for torture.

A kid named Pete usually slogged through an endless recitation about Randy Johnson’s Power Pitching:

“Webster’s defines “hero” as one who shows great courage, and my hero is Randy The Big Unit Johnson…”  

Well kid, you’re pretty brave yourself, reading this out loud for the third year in a row, and Webster’s defines “agony” as listening to a book report, for the third time, on Randy Johnson’s Power Pitching, with a detailed play-by-play of every no-hitter he ever pitched.




noun “A very small pool of usually dirty or muddy water.”

Transitive verb “to make muddy or turbid:  MUDDLE.”

Doesn’t those definitions just sound exactly like something your great-aunt would say?   The prissy disapproving tone just seeps through, loud & clear.

And then you have to go look up turbid” since I thought that was a kind of fish, from Iceland, that my grandmother used to make, when she was on one of those “eating healthy” kicks we all dreaded.   (Turns out, it was turbot, “Webster’s:  a kind of bug-eyed flatfish, best left on the ocean bottom, and not something to bake into fishy jerky, and make kids eat, when they did do their book report, and weren’t the one who left muddy footprints on the kitchen floor.”)

“Muddle” was already familiar, since “muddled” was one of the top ten criticisms I always got on my essays.   Come to think of it, in college, I also got “turbid” a few times.



Wikipedia has “a small accumulation of liquid…pooling in a depression…”

OK, you see what I mean?  Doesn’t “pooling in a depression” sound like sad grade-schoolers, slogging slowly toward their doom, assembling in a damp pool of misery for oral presentation day??  Puddles are such fun, sure they’re pools of a sort, but there’s nothing depressing about them, while this whole dictionary thing was a very unpleasant experience, lots of horrible memories, bad fish, red ink, talking in public.

Better to reflect upon puddles, and, however muddy, how much undiluted fun they are.  And I think I can assert, after in-depth experimentation, without fear of contradiction, that lightly iced puddles are the best for stepping on.  Like shattering glass windows without losing your allowance.  The whole puddle experience is kind of great.

There, The End.  I’m grading this one “Clear As Mud, See Me After Class.”

Finger Lakes, FLX, Nature, NY, snow, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Uncategorized, Upstate New York, Winter

Walks Around The Finger Lakes. February. Frozen Puddles.


52 thoughts on “Walks Around The Finger Lakes. February. Frozen Puddles.

  1. I simply love this series you are working on, Robert. Your lead image took my breath away. The patterns and holes convey an anticipation of breaking away. The natural abstracts you find are all fascinating!

  2. “[It] was like having cheerleaders during root canal surgery.”A commercial for a “laser dentist” in Austin has been running unchanged for years. It bills that dental practice as providing a “warm and fun environment.” I doubt that any patient in the history of dentistry has found dental visits to be fun. Necessary, sure, but fun? No way.

    • I count myself lucky to always had perfectly relaxed, non-scary visits to the dentist, but you’re right, I wouldn’t call them fun. I’m guessing that dentist uses a laser instead of a metal drill? That sounds interesting but maybe worrisome, too.

  3. Here’s the etymology the American Heritage Dictionary gives for puddle: Middle English podel, diminutive of Old English pudd, ditch. And for muddle: Possibly from obsolete Dutch moddelen, to make water muddy, from Middle Dutch, frequentative of *modden, to make muddy, from modde, mud.

  4. I don’t know why, but that third picture down, the one with all the circles, reminds me of Australian Indigenous art. Fascinating pictures. The other ones of ice almost look like abstract art.

  5. Thank you for leading us through some of your less pleasant grade school experiences! However, stepping on frozen puddles is the real thing for me. I still derive great pleasure even at the age of 76 stepping on them, especially when they emit the crackling sounds of breaking glass and allow me to leave my temporary footprint. Oh, so much fun!

  6. This brings back memories of childhood, and the best part of going on the walks we walked with our parents in early spring. I was never a mud puddle stomper, but I did enjoy breaking the ice. I guess every kid does. You make simple things so interesting!

  7. George says:

    Brilliant! Truly original, quirky and entertaining. Oh no, that’s sounds like a school report. Oh well, at least it’s a good one.

  8. Very cool pictures. Cold, even.

    We’re quite familiar with puddles out here, but they’re rarely frozen. Sometimes they’re even clean, at least until they see some kid coming along who’s aura says, “I have an appointment with a clean carpet.”

  9. Puddles are just tiny ponds or lakes. Or pools, gotta like pools, especially tidal pools. And tidal ponds too. So who doesn’t love stepping on refrozen puddle ice? That cracking sound is so much fun. I still do it sometimes although I try to make a few images first. I especially like the third image…looks so much like a bunch of tarsals.

    So now you’ve done it. I’ve been moving right along as a happy septuagenarian until visions of my school youth are now swirling around. I had a lithp back then and my parentth did all they could to help me avoid the othtracthzing that accompanieth it. Ath I got older it theemed that the ladieth thought a lithp wath a bit cute and I lotht mine. Oh well. I eventually got lucky and have had a happy married life without it. I kind of mith it though. Itth awful the way people make otherth uncomfortable about the thingth that make them unique. Cruel world it ith.

    Oh well, back to 71 year old Steve. No more childhood reminders for today anyway. 😉

    • Thanks, Steve, I enjoyed your comment! 🙂 My kid sister had a very slight lithp, which I was so used to, I never really heard it until it was gone, it was just the way she talked.
      I guess that puddle-crashing is as close as a lot of us will get to being wild-eyed hooligans. Sometimes I hear Nick Lowe’s song “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass”
      And you used the second word today that sent me running back to Webster’s – – “tarsals.” 🙂 (The other one was on a nature blog from England — “conurbation” = several towns merging with the suburbs of one or more cities. (I guess like Long Island or northern N.J., where I can’t tell when one town ends and another begins.)

  10. I really enjoyed this piece–and the beautiful photos that accompany the writing. Definitions really can ruin things sometimes–I agree that it’s much more fun to just splash about–as you put it: “shattering glass windows without losing your allowance.” Brilliant!

  11. Awfully funny reflecting from the personal side….used to positively torture myself in grade school with the habit of keeping a dictionary holstered right there at my side as I read, in order to look up any word with which I wasn’t familiar. At times, this required a lot of looking-up and dreadfully bogged down the reading process but I wanted so bad to read the important books my big sister had accumulated and left behind. Was functionally capable of reading for context but it just really doggone bothered me to not know the exact meaning of a word and I always felt like if I kept doing it that eventually things would ease up a little. The kicker is to this day I don’t have a particularly great vocabulary (or smarts) as a result of such ridiculous attention to linguistic detail, haha! However, I do retain a love and admiration for the well-written word whether I’m reading a highly acclaimed novel from a Zulitzer Price award winning author or a witty, funny essay on WordPress by you. Great images,Robert! I love the “flowy” feel of the first three and that second picture is my favorite because it reminds me so much of the intertidal zone and eelgrass beds. Try to stay warm, it won’t keep up much longer. Looks as though we’re going to have a sunny weekend in Puget Sound country and the mercury is inching up a tiny bit yet I’m humoring my boys who want to be shivery in the snow up high (the Olympics). It’s getting to be the last hurrah for me as it comes to snow. Sorry I’ve been such a dud bud when it comes to writing my own- several weeks of nonstop school closures (weather) and then midwinter break. Heck, let’s just cancel school for the rest of the year! Have a good weekend, Robert. Hope this finds you in good health and continuing to write and photograph for the love of it.

    • Thanks, Jason, I’m glad to hear from you. Weeks of school closures! wow. I hope that doesn’t mean the kids will be in school into July!! Even if cold, I envy your trip to the Olympic Mts, and the snow will be beautiful, not the gritty blackened stuff we’ll have, with gross stuff beginning to thaw out. 🙂 Well I’ll look forward to a post when things even out in the NW.

  12. I don’t watch baseball enough to know who Houston’s starting pitchers are this year, but when Randy Johnson came to town, even I paid attention. His record for his season with the Astros was 10-1. And that’s all I know about him, except that he gave great interviews, and seemed to be a nice guy. Shoot – I might be able to give an oral report on him, if I just brushed up a bit.

    The third and fourth photos are wonderful. It looks as though they have just the right amount of ice for a lovely, tinkling sound when a foot goes through it. I think the abstractions that form in your puddles are far better than the carved ice extravaganzas we have down here.

    But it’s mud season that I remember. When you live in Iowa, and things start to thaw, that six-foot-deep loam turns into something special. Driving on the country roads could be as dangerous as driving on ice, as I learned the year I sneaked off from the library and put my folks’ car in a snow-filled ditch. The snow was still deep enough that my sideways slide didn’t even disturb the dirt on the sides of the car. The farmer who hooked a chain to his tractor and pulled me out said, “Your folks never will know.” And they didn’t, until that mud dried and fell onto the garage floor in great chunks.

    I wonder if Randy Johnson ever shattered window glass with a baseball. Maybe that’s what kids do if they don’t have iced puddles to step in.

    • Hi Linda – thanks for writing, good to hear from you. I like baseball moderately, but not a fanatic – – I’d forgotten, despite those book reports, that he even played for the Astros, I always think Arizona.
      Always sounded like he was throwing perfectly right out of the cradle, so he probably never broke any windows with wild pitches. I know he’s from California, but probably playing for the Yankees gave him some experience with ice and frozen puddles.
      I’m thinking that 6′ of loam (vs. 6″ of topsoil where I’m from) sounds like you could really have an “immersion experience” with mud, during a wet spring. Back in NY, if the “black ice” doesn’t get you, when it thaws out, it’s the slippery clay, on the unpaved roads, that usually puts people in the ditches at home.
      Milwaukee is still doing its subzero thing, so right now, it doesn’t feel any closer to spring and mud puddle season, but when the sun breaks through, it feels pretty good. But no bluebonnets around here, that’s for sure! 🙂

      • I had a friend who just got back from the suburbs of Chicago. She flew out of Milwaukee, and she said her teeth didn’t stop chattering until she got back home. That might be an exaggeration — but it might not. Stay warm, and keep those tires on the road!

  13. Love the photos and great post!
    Here in southern Italy, we’ve had a mild winter this year with only one real day of snow in the city. The Sila National Park starting half-hour away from here had a lot more.

  14. melissabluefineart says:

    Wow, one day of snow?! Visit, hell, can I just move there?
    But back to puddles. Recently I drove my little dog to a neighboring town that actually clears its sidewalks and hence offers safe walking. A few of those perfect, ice-glazed puddles were forming and I’m happy to report an otherwise mature-looking teenager sidled nonchalantly up to one and then JUMPED in it with both feet. Then she did a little dance and went on her way.

      • melissabluefineart says:

        Yes, I was very pleased with her. When she noticed me she gave me an impish grin. I forgot to mention in my previous comment, your photos are really beautiful.

        • Thank you, Melissa. I was taking a hike that day, and walked a fair number of miles and then when I got back to my car, took these pictures of the ditch next to the road. Probably some sort of metaphor or lesson, or something, there!

          • melissabluefineart says:

            Haha, that is funny! It reminds me of when I’d walked miles over the dunes hoping to see a certain species of butterfly, only to find the thing fluttering around my car at the parking lot.

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