Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lower snow line

Here's another photo of the Cournouze, taken today:

If you compare this image with the one displayed in my recent article entitled Sisyphus road act [display], you'll notice that the snow line at Châtelus—the lowest level at which snow has fallen—has descended over a vertical distance of a couple of hundred meters. What this meant at Gamone is that, when I drove out yesterday to buy a bag of food for Sophia (fearing that we might be cut off from civilization for a few days), the road was covered in snow for the first hundred meters, and then it was suddenly as dry as a bone. In other words, the snow line actually passed midway through my property. You can get a feeling for the situation from the following photo of Mount Baret, taken this afternoon from my bedroom window:

Although the sun has been warming us well since eight o'clock this morning, the rocky bald summit of the mountain is still flecked with patches of snow, whereas the slopes of Gamone are now fairly free of snow... except for that curious patch that remains on the lawn just outside my bedroom.

You may have noticed, in the previous paragraph, that I indicated the precise time at which the sun rose this morning. That's because, for this final fortnight of winter, the sun behaves in a funny fashion at Gamone. The following photo shows you what happens:

First of all, I hasten to point out that the "sun" in this image is in fact a fake yellow Photoshop blob... because I don't wish to melt the electronic innards of my Nikon by trying to take photos of the real sun. Besides, you will have guessed that there's no way in the world that the real sun could ever get down to a cozy little spot in the sky between the top of the Cournouze and the cloud bank in the background. [The great English seascape painter J M W Turner once tried to get away with a lunar situation of that kind in his Fishermen at sea.]

During the long winter months, the sun rises behind the Cournouze, and I don't see it until late in the morning. Then, all of a sudden, as the location of the sun's initial appearance moves towards the left (the north), I'm woken up by an unusually early but short-lived beam of light as the sun pokes its nose above the horizon to the left of the Cournouze. At the present period of the year, the sun rises early, at around eight o'clock, then it is "eclipsed" for a while by a corner of the Cournouze before reappearing and moving freely towards its winter zenith in the sky. So, you might say that, within a span of a couple of hours, I'm treated to two successive sunrises. That, of course, is simply yet another of the many simple charms of my home in the mountains.

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