Róisín Page called birches ‘albino trees’ when she came to visit us in the White Mountains of New Hampshire from her home in Ireland many years ago. The name has stayed with me: poetic, descriptive, humorous, just like Róisín.
Several days ago I came up with my own name for a time-sensitive phenomenon that is fragile and ephemeral: Snow birches.
The creation of snow birches is tricky. You need deciduous trees that have dropped their leaves but are healthy and full of tiny branches. Then you need cold, still air and a long, slow snowfall of the very fluffy stuff, followed by a clear blue day and absolutely no breeze at all.
To see snow birches you usually have to get up and out fairly early in the morning because the slightest puff of air can come along and send the whole magical scene tumbling to the ground. Aim to look straight toward the sun, shielding your eyes in the shadow of one of the larger tree trunks. Then you will see the full glory of the crystalline prisms glistening above you, three inches of snow balanced precariously on one inch of branch.
You think rainbows are cool? In my humble opinion, snow birches have them beat, mittened-hands down.