This strength of year’s El Niño may be a result of global warming and rising temperatures might eventually bring about the total destruction of our planet, but I’m not complaining about the unseasonably warm weather the Midwest has experienced over the past few weeks. The snow is melting. The ground is thawing. Life is returning.
Winter weather will visit us again, I know. But for now, let us rejoice.
In a place like Minnesota where snow and ice cover the ground for months on end, the advent of the melt is refreshing and welcome. It means new life and expanded opportunities. Although the diminishing snow signals a future that is temperate and green, the melting process is dirty and brown. The transition from winter to spring is messy.
Walk to the bus stop or take a jaunt around the neighborhood on the first mild day of spring and you’ll feel like a pirate discovering lost and long-discarded treasure.
Treasure is, of course, a stretch.
It’s more accurately trash. These are frozen and forgotten objects that have regained what little life they have left in the grimy thaw.
And if we’re being honest, when you go searching for the items that the snow has relinquished, you’re less a pirate and more like a scavenger – a buzzard, discovering odd, useless and gross things.
I’m a buzzard. And armed with curiosity, time and a camera, I’ve set out on a little photo project I’m calling: After the Snow Melts: things lost, things discovered.
If these items could speak they would tell stories of loss and pain, of rejection and uselessness. Their thawing is not their redemption, it’s the beginning of the end. They will be collected and discarded once the grass begins to green.
A majority of the items left behind after winter’s departure are explicable. They’re not necessarily acceptable, but they’re understandable. Trash – bottles, paper and cigarette butts – makes up the lion’s share of items found in melting snow.
Through this project I’ve come to believe there is something about winter that makes people forget how to throw things away. Shove it in a snowbank, throw it in the gutter. It’s too cold to be a decent citizen – they seem to reason.
These discarded items tell the story of a long winter. They tell the story of us – our laziness and addictions, our attempts at surviving the coldest months of the year and our search for meaning in a cruel and frozen world.
Although it is not something I prefer to document, dog poop is a prevalent by-product of melting snow. What was once frozen and hidden is now soft and waiting for you to step in it.
Although the purpose of this photo project is to document, not judge, I can only hope my efforts bring to light the disturbing trend that is the failure to pick up after defecating pooches.
I’m sorry to post the following picture. I’m just documenting the sad, harsh truth.
Some things lost and left in the snow are understandable – hats, gloves and scarves for example. These winter essentials are forever escaping our possession. They’re like socks in a dyer. But unlike widowed socks, I know where they end up – in the snow.
Other lost clothing items are more confounding. The idea that a person could arrive home without these essential components of their outfit is disturbing.
For me, the most interesting and rewarding items to photograph for this project are those in the category of weird, confusing and just plain sad. These items hold mystery and stories we will never know. They are secrets personified. Their tales of loss and hope mirror our own.
Life, much like the vestiges of a receding winter, is messy and mysterious. It is full of loss and death and redemption and new hope. Capturing these items has been an exercise in presence and an acceptance of the more raw and real parts of life.
Scroll through the images below to see more of my work from this photo project.
This work of documenting winter’s remnants is ongoing. The snow is still melting. Capturing life as it is literally frozen and unfrozen in time has become a small hobby of mine, and I invite you to join in. Become a pirate – or buzzard – of winter’s remnants. Notice. Observe. Question. Capture.
Post your pictures of interesting frozen and melting items with the hashtag #afterthesnowmelts. Tell me about the most bizarre thing you’ve found in the snow, in the comments below.