Cold War, Frostbite, Great Lakes, Nature, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You

Old Man Winter still got teeth. Walks Around Upstate New York. March.




I resisted the title “Beech on the Beach,” but it’s accurate. Winter storms undermined this tree, until there was nothing left to shore it up. During a rare day of sunshine, I walked on the shingle, and saw this sparkling up ahead. It looked a bit like a big chandelier had crashed into the water.
















We’re at that slippery divide between seasons, transitioning from slipping on ice, to sliding on mud.  March always throws both at us.

Setting aside a month for a bellicose and unstable guy like the god Mars was not a good idea.  In the Great Lakes region, it’s a pugnacious season, and full woolen body armor is still recommended.

Full of bluster and false promises of warmth.  We don’t always see the lion-to-lamb thing – – it’s more “In like a blowhard, out like sheep dip.”  Still icy winds and snow, and then mud, that’s still pretty chilly when it soaks through the seat of your pants after an embarrassing slip’n’slide.  No flowers yet, and the only efflorescence going on around here is crusty deposits from road salt and chemical runoff.

I read an article recently about the old discussion over the number of Eskimo terms for snow, apparently going on at least since “The Handbook of American Indian Languages” was published in 1911 .   I don’t want to reignite the debate, and I don’t want to think about snow for a while. Just want to build a little birdhouse in my soul & a little Florida room in my mind.


Strange clumps of ice crystals along the lake shore, like those deep-fried “blooming onions” that were a fad for a while. It’s sad, really, how much I think about food. This picture looked ok and sharper on my computer, than here on WP (?) First time using a tiny Sony pocket camera, the size of a pack of Luckies. Unfiltered, both the cigarettes and camera, I got it for a trip where I’d be traveling light, but now cancelled due to the virus.


But if my enthusiasm for ice has cooled a bit, it does occur to me, we really don’t have nearly enough terms for mud.  I only know a few, like Muck & Mire.

This prompted me to look those two up – – I always thought they were the same thing, but in the final scene, we find out, Muck is the slimy one, and Mire is the deep one.

My personal favorite is “gumbo,” since as we squelch through the muck & mire, we often release all sorts of fragrant gasses and spicy odors.  Sometimes as things warm up, some paths, maybe the more aerated ones, give off a kind of nice composted smell, and sometimes a rich bouillabaisse aroma, that’s not unpleasant at all.

I’d be interested in any terms you use for mud (colorful is good, I know I don’t have to ask you to keep it clean).












46 thoughts on “Old Man Winter still got teeth. Walks Around Upstate New York. March.

  1. “Setting aside a month for the god Mars was not a good idea. In the Great Lakes region, it’s a pugnacious season, and full woolen body armor is still recommended.” – I like that statement. 🙂
    As to Old Man Winter still being up and about in your region: tomorrow it’s supposed to be 87 here. Want to come down? 😉 But then, travelling is not the best idea these days, isn’t it?
    Stay well and healthy, my friend,

  2. Your post inspired me to get into a discussion with my husband about ‘gumboots’. These are the regular rubber boots and we think they are called gumboots in England and Australia. As opposed to Wellington or Welly boots which traditionally are made of leather. Or the CV19 quarantine has already afflicted our brains and it’s only day 2 of 14 days.🤣

  3. Let me assure you, Robert, we here in Canada feel the same about winter not wishing to leave and not making room for spring to enter with its flowers and its beautiful colours. After all, what do you expect in land located north of NY!? Best wishes! Peter

  4. The American Heritage Dictionary says that English got muck from a word in a Scandinavian language akin to the Old Norse myki that meant ‘dung.’ In contrast, mire came from Old Norse mȳrr, which meant ‘bog.’ Mire is the less disgusting of the two.

  5. melissabluefineart says:

    LOL, “In like a blowhard, out like sheep dip”. Yup, that about sums it up. I did enjoy your images, though. As you know, I pray every year that was my last winter here in the midwest. Soon, my husband keeps telling me. One day I’ll just go and he’ll have to catch up!

    • Wow, excellent! I’m surely going to be dropping that into conversation! It’s a new one to me, and I love it. I’d have guessed it was some sort of vegetarian casserole involving beets. Thanks so much, Denzil!

      • I well remember me and my two brothers (I was about 13) singing “We are going bog wurzelling, bog wurzelling, bog wurzelling” as we plodded through the depths of Tregaron Bog in Wales! It never make the pop charts unfortunately. But we made it out of the bog.

  6. Darts and Letters says:

    Beech on the Beach is great but the third or fourth down are my favorite. You mentioned walking along the river last weekend. Is there a trail system for bikers or pedestrians to follow along and then get over to the lake? It’s interesting how the Milwaukee parallels the lakeshore for a spell. Are these pictures anywhere near McKinley, Lake and Veterans parks? Those look good on the map. Just several days ago, a friend in Philly told me about her walk through the blossoms, it was summertime upper 70s but then yesterday my sister on Lake Michigan right across from you said the Robins were pretty danged unhappy in the latest snow. I just can’t keep track anymore.

    I’m an undercaffeinated (decaffeinated?) blob at the moment so I can’t really think of my favorite appellations for mud, there’s all kinds but usually our favorite is the stuff with a lot of clay in it because it looks so much like butterscotch or caramel (not carmel) pudding which we love. My youngest specializes in attracting it to every part of his body. No matter how hard he tries to walk around the puddles (and he doesn’t try very hard) brown works its way up his cuffs, the back of his legs, the seat of his pants, his face, etc. There was a dusting of snow on the foothills last weekend but it started melting by midday and the trails we walked were an incredible mess.

    • Your son and I are kindred spirits, I attract mud too, even when I don’t see any, and I usually show up places with black gook spritzed up and down my pants legs.
      There are trails leading down to, and along a stretch of the lake – the Oak Leaf Trail has a lot of different spurs. The section closest to me, in Shorewood, is partly trail, and partly routed along streets Milwaukee has trails along both side of the river, which are really boggy right now, and then a railroad bed trail, that’s much drier but sometimes pretty busy with joggers/bikers.
      The trail passes over a busy road, that runs right by my apt, on an old RR bridge that has a very cool installation – – a lighting/sound system that at night simulates passenger trains crossing the bridge. That sounds kind of hokey but it’s actually amazingly good.
      In warm weather, I can open my windows and see it from my apartment.

  7. I can add to Steve’s comment that present days words in Norwegian are møkk and myr. And I also agree with Pinklightsabre, Muck & Mire is a perfect pub name. As for winter not giving up. I know the feeling, although we have hardly had much winter in these parts of the world this year. Take care and stay healthy in these times.

  8. Our winter had been fairly mild by past comparison so it’s hard, here at least, to complain about the occasional blast from the past. And as you might gather, I appreciate the occasional renewed opportunity for a little ice photography. But enough is enough.
    I have never thought about something colloquial for mud. Muck and mire do come to mind as words I have heard. I’ll have to put a little creative thought into it but don’t expect much…or muck.

  9. Believe it or not, ‘gumbo’ is the sort of soil typical of the Houston area. It’s not the kind of nice, clean midwestern mud I grew up with — the sort based in loam. It’s mostly clay, which means it can change its nature with the seasons. In winter it expands with the rains, and in summer heat it hardens and contracts, leading to foundation failure in houses. If you want to plant in it, you can’t just dig a hole, because you’ve essentially created a non-draining flower pot that will kill whatever goes in. You have to make sure you have a nice, large area of amended soil before you plant.

    And then, of course, there’s “Mississippi Mud” the song, and The Big Muddy as a nickname for the river, and the famous Pete Seeger song, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” which is sort of applicable today.

      • I couldn’t figure out why a song about the 1942 war games in Louisiana would be censored, and had to read up a bit – – they were upset because it was an analogy for Vietnam, I guess. Pretty good song!

    • Linda, you’re always telling me interesting stuff, that I didn’t know before. It sounds like gumbo soil is lots of grief to deal with, but it’s a cool name all the same. It’s strange how many cities are built in difficult places, like Venice, sinking in its lagoon, and I read about all the elaborate pyramids of wood under older buildings in Chicago, to stop them sinking into the clay. NYC is lucky to have very tough schist and gneiss to stack things on.
      I like that oldtime recording of “Mississippi Mud,” that’s fun! I knew that tune, and saw an episode of MASH where Harry Morgan, before he was Col. Potter, played an insane general, who sang it.

  10. Life’s a beech, and then you die. Icy tendrils reaching into your limbs, winter’s tears dripping towards the earth, the weight of the world on your shoulders.

    Ew, how depressing. Let’s try again.

    Pristine light bounces off the river and through the glade. Nature’s chandelier catches it, spins it, takes it for a ride and spits it out in every direction. Winter wears it’s best white gloves, fingers reaching out, shimmering.

    I’m not sure how this comment evolved, I was just mucking about. It’s a bit convoluted though, I didn’t mean to muddy the waters. Not something to ad-mire.

    Oy, I think I need a drink after that. Know any good pubs?

  11. Wow, Dave! haha, life’s a beech, huh. 🙂 These are some pretty amazing and poetic comments! I’m thinking you could have a second career, writing the guidebooks for art galleries, or fashion shows. I definitely owe you a pint at the Muck & Mire

  12. I’m not going to come up with any cool words for mud….it’s just slippery when I walk on a muddy trail, that’s my main take on it these days. 🙂 What beautiful photo so that ice! The smooth coating, the places where little twigs fork and the ice follows, I just love it. As pretty as it looks to me with sun shining outside and green everywhere, I too would be thinking about food a lot, and building a birdhouse for my soul, in that most pugnacious of season/places.

    • It can really be challenging to stay on your feet this time of year, I’ve been sliding quite a lot on the slick clay, when I get off the trail to set joggers by.
      Last fall also must’ve set some sort of record for acorns, so sometimes it’s still like walking on marbles, the squirrels seem to have slacked off, and there’s still tons of acorns on the ground in some places.

  13. Val says:

    Love the icy icicles photos… good luck looking for a little Florida room. If you find one, please send it to me! 😉

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