22 February

Red And I: Caught In A Magical Whiteout

by Jon Katz
Whiteout: Red and me

Whiteouts are one of the most amazing experiences of the winter for me, especially mystical with a calm dog like Red, whose attachment to me (and mine to him) are profound. i can only think of three or four times I have been in a whiteout up here in the country, I find them sometimes frightening, always beautiful and sometimes – like the one today – mystical.

A whiteout is a weather condition in which visibility and contrast are eliminated by snow, sometimes sand. The horizon disappears completely and soon, there are no reference points at all, leaving the people caught in one disoriented and with a deeply distorted sense of his or her environment.

Red and I were going out in a snowstorm – not a huge one – and suddenly, the world just disappeared.

One defintion is “a condition of diffuse light when no shadows are cast, due to a continuous white cloud layer appearing to merge with the white snow surface.”

I would add that no surface irregularities of the snow are visible, and there is no visible horizon. A dark object may be seen, or mysteriously appear or disappear.”

Once I was walking in the woods during a whiteout, and I felt utterly lost. Usually up here the whiteouts don’t last long, a whiteout is a function or side effect of a storm, but not a storm itself. I have learned to be still, and appreciate the stillness and beauty.

Red is the same way, when I stepped outside to do the afternoon chores, we both were shrouded in a sudden whiteout just a few steps from the farmhouse. There was no danger, and Red never disappeared, moved, or took his eyes off of me. I never lost sight of him, and once or twice – I had my Canon out with a new art lens on it – the chairs or apple tree would appear, then vanish.

The whiteout lasted about a minute, and Red was still looking straight at me, waiting, as he always does for me to catch up.

It was all beauty, no fear and no disorientation. I think Mother Earth is blowing me a kiss, or perhaps an angel or cherub is using the snow to come to earth, or go up into the skies. I thought it was quite wonderful.

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