A study in black and white

I am certain I am not the only one who complains about the lack of sunshine at this time of year. Studies abound and there are genuine treatments for those severely afflicted. Special lamps are supposed to work while others simply choose a trip farther south.

I’m willing to bet there are many who don’t migrate who will agree that winter’s beauty can’t be bettered on those seemingly rare days when the sun does shine and the sky puts on its best deep blue.

The albums of photographs I’ve taken to preserve the beauty of a special scene at home are by and large filled with winter shots. Those far outnumber the other three seasons combined. (Yes, some might argue that winter days far outnumber the other three seasons combined. ‘Taint quite so, folks.)

There is, however, beauty even on those cloudy and, yes, snow-filled days. I write of “black and white” but know nature tolerates little of either extreme.

Many years ago my father became interested in painting and began taking lessons. I still remember his excitement at realizing there was more than one shade of green. All he had needed was somebody to open his eyes.

I look now at the scene outside my back window. The trees, long stripped of any adornment, stand straight. There are more than I can count. (Why is this the first time I have seen this?) What makes the scene attract my eyes now is that snow has been plastered on the south side of each. Since I am viewing from the west, each tree is divided vertically in half: black on my left, white on my right.

Stark indeed but there’s an undeniable loveliness there too.

Of course it isn’t black and white. Experience tells us the trunk of a tree tends to be brown of one shade or another. That doesn’t change by the season. Snow on the other hand depends on the sky (it really is up there someplace) and whether it’s as fresh as what I view.

I love paintings of similar scenes for the artist seems required to insert bits of pale pinks and blues, shades found at no other season.

I look more closely. The sky could be blue (if one stretched his imagination) and the ground snow tends toward that as well. I see a lot of brown in the bushes that surround the trees (and know that will soon be reddening). There are a couple of huge rocks there as well. I can also make out the still-green of a bunch of rhododendrons that keep trying to make a permanent home for themselves.

It’s worthy of a photograph.

The longer I look, the more I see. The shadows move slowly – except there are none. The sun is that far removed and I must curb my writer’s enthusiasm and stick to the truth.

The truth is that there is loveliness everywhere. I simply need to slow down (why is that never simple?), take a deep breath and use the time I’m given to truly look at the world around me.

Chautauqua County is full of eye appeal, even on those days when we rue the loss of the sun.

I can move my head now – to the right or to the left – and find more beauties to observe. It doesn’t stop.

Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to