Beneath the Snow

As this brutal winter extends into February, a thick layer of snow covers the lawns, fields and grasslands of the American Midwest.  Shimmering in the frigid sunshine, the white blanket seems to have smothered nature's cycle of life.

Yet, beneath the snow, life goes on.  Meadow voles tunnel under its protective covering, less visible but still vulnerable to the keen senses of winter's predators.  Cottontails and chipmunks have retreated to their burrows and true hibernators, including woodchucks and ground squirrels, slumber deep in the ground, oblivious to the winter storms that rake the surface.  Insulated by the snow and leaf litter, mice, shrews and a host of invertebrates feast on seeds, berries and hibernating insects.  Moles tunnel deeper into the soil, pursuing earthworms and grubs, while fungi spread their mycelia through the decaying vegetation, recycling nutrients, nourishing the root systems of dormant plants and storing energy for their own reproduction.

Though spring seems to be a distant promise as we struggle to clear our sidewalks and driveways, this diverse web of life continues beneath the snow.  Indeed, without it, we could not enjoy the color and fragrance of the coming season.