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A Glistening, Icy Delight

ON ice pond was not part of my youth. Nor were gloves, scarves, and bulky coats. Snow was something that happened occasionally each winter when the tops of California's San Gabriel mountains were dusted with white.

But there was one remarkable day when I looked out the window to see snowflakes falling on orange trees, the result of a colder-than-usual cold front. The delight of it is still strong in my memory.

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It was this same kind of delight that photographer R. Norman Matheny says he felt one afternoon recently when he stopped in Putnam, Conn. The Quinebaug River runs through Putnam and spills over a small dam, sending spray aloft to be carried by the wind to the banks and rocks.

And on this cold day, as the sun set, Matheny says he was thrilled again to see what happens when water and subfreezing weather come together to make ice. The sloshing waters in the background, not far from the water cascading over the dam, sent the spray in all directions, leaving a coat of ice on the plants.

The little vertical twigs in the foreground are transformed into ice sculpture, and the rock shines with an icy patina. Matheny stayed over an hour, using a telephoto lens to get closer and closer to the action and light as the sun lowered and sparkled in the water.

What is remarkable about the best of winter photos - always lifting them above the cliched category - is inherent grace that warms us with familiarity even while the ice glistens.

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