The river in winter

With every January comes the dawn of a new year, and time for looking at things in a new light. Perhaps that’s true this year more than most.

When we look at the Mississippi River in the spring, summer and fall, it’s easy to see the way the river comes to life. The water flows downstream, the green of the world is all around it and the river literally teems with life.

In January, however, we have a different perspective.

In January, the water still flows, but it’s largely hidden. The river, which gives off a hint of blue when ice-free, takes on a blacker shade in the winter. If you stop and look, you still see wildlife – ducks and geese, the occasional eagle – even though it is hibernation season.

And the parts of the river that aren’t covered with ice give off this steam, an ethereal vapor where the relative warmth of the water evaporates into the much colder air. The effect is one of both mystery and calm, evoking a sense of isolation even in the middle of a bustling city.

This wintry scene is bathed in a different light. Gone are the warm, bright palettes of summer. The sun’s track across the sky comes at a much lower angle and is more diffuse in varying whites and blues, highlighting the sparkles in the snow. But while this light is harsh, adding to the starkness of the view, it illuminates the extreme contrasts of bright, reflective snow and dark water and ice.

While we may all wish to hibernate ourselves, especially in the coldest part of the winter, we can’t simply bury ourselves in the river bottom. For this great river still flows, and it is no less a part of our great city in January than it is in July.

There are many places to take in this view. But let us recommend one, in particular: Edgewater Park, in Northeast, at 2420 Marshall Street. The overlook is a prime spot to see the river, without the distractions of the Central Riverfront. A place to make a physical connection with the Mississippi River. And when you’re done basking in the serenity, pop across the street to Betty Danger’s Country Club for a hot cider or hot chocolate.

Your soul will be glad you did.

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