We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
— T. S. Eliot, from "Little Gidding"

This morning I discovered sparse feathers of frost on the bottom pane of the window at the top of our stairs. Our home is approximately 90-years-old and its oak-framed windows were surely one of its selling points. The oak is beautiful but of course we also love the look of our wavy imperfect glass. I rarely photograph through the hand-blown glass because the image is I was delighted to see this faceting of frost on the insides of my windows.

When Benjamin heard my exclamations regarding what I'd found he said, "There's more on my window." Wow. He wasn't kidding. As I lay across his bed photographing the beautiful patterns of frost he explained that it's there every morning.   


"It's on the inside," he added. Then, pressing his finger against the frost, he melted a small finger tip-shaped oval onto the window pane. As I photographed the frost the bright sun slipped behind a cloud and then, re-appeared as quickly as it had disappeared.


By late-afternoon the warmth of the sun's rays on my son's window had melted the frost entirely. I wanted to know more, so I did some reading. It seems we are at a bit of an advantage when it comes to forming this type of frost. If we had modern, well-insulated windows the conditions would be far less suitable for the formation of interior window frost. I suppose we'd be warmer, too. And our energy bills, lower. But I digress. 

The frost is formed when the temperature outside is below freezing (today's high was 15°F with wind chills as low as -20°F) and the inside produces moist air.  This happens most effectively if the window is a single-pane, like ours. Water vapor on the inside forms the frost crystals on the freezing cold glass.

Why the feathery design? It has to do with the surface of the glass. "Window frost often makes elaborate patterns as the crystal growth is strongly influenced by the window surface," writes Kenneth G. Lebbrecht. Interestingly, "Scratches, residual soap streaks, etc., can all change the way the crystals nucleate and grow." I can assure you...there are no residual soap streaks on my windows. Perhaps I should clean the glass. I might experience new, more elaborate patterns!

Seriously, though...finding this simple natural beauty right here in my own home reinforces my renewed attentiveness to place. I lost my way in 2017, believing I should attempt to appeal to a larger group of people - photographers, jurors, editors. I lost my way. And by the year's end, I wanted only to spend time with the people I love, documenting a few special places. real loves,
my real affections
are reviving.
— N.C. Wyeth, from "Wilmington's Colony of Artists," No. 12, The Star, January 23, 1910


Jessica Allen explores the fields and forests of Pennsylvania with her artist-husband, Michael Allen, and their son, Benjamin. She shares her observations through words and pictures of everyday magic and beauty she sees in her world.