trapped maple limb

Light unmitigated by leaves can change in an instant.


This is what makes deserts both so alluring and so unforgiving — that lack of moderation. Sharp contrasts appeal to the eye as well as to the moral imagination.

broomsedge footprints

The condition of the snow can change by the hour: what held you up at dawn might crumble under your boots at ten. The only constant is the need to walk and walk and walk, for warmth more than exercise and for revelation more than warmth.


In a radically simplified landscape there are fewer places to hide, and things that had been hidden are selectively revealed, in strong light and with maximum contrast: that’s what I mean by revelation. Nothing mystical about it. And the extreme conditions should serve to remind us that revelations are not necessarily pleasant; a preference for pleasant news and comforting beliefs can be a real obstacle to an accurate perception of reality.

bull thistle in winter

The desertedness of deserts is of course another big part of their appeal. You can be alone with your demons. The wintertime desert is barren, devoid of fertility — but as anyone who has chosen to remain child-free will tell you, this can be a gift, too. All sorts of things need open space to flourish. Biologically speaking, the extreme environments known as barrens in the eastern U.S., like the western deserts, often accommodate species found nowhere else.


So what seems barren to most might be for some the most fruitful country imaginable, the moment-by-moment mutability as welcome as the phases of an unpredictable moon.


Chimonophile: Someone who enjoys cold winters.

22 Replies to “Chimonophile”

  1. Oh, love this, Dave! A new word for me. Not sure if I love the cold anymore, having gotten soft on the west coast, but I sure love the beauty of snow. Your amazing photos really capture that beauty!

    1. Thanks, Clive! I know many of my critter-obsessed naturalist friends would disagree with me, but as far as I’m concerned, winter is the best time for photography. I can sleep in as long as I like and still take advantage of the low-yet-strong sun.

  2. Stunning–
    Yes, those are all the reasons I love the desert and why I live in one. Each flower, rock, grass, shadow can be appreciated more fully and spaciously. Always in context.

    Love your winter-desert!

    1. Thanks! I’ve only visited true deserts a couple times in my life, but I loved how garden-like they seemed, every plant and stone in its place. Of course, that was before the invasion of non-native, fire-adapted grasses in the American southwest, and the consequent likelihood that that the Sonoran and Mojave desert ecosystems will be essentially destroyed within our lifetimes. Deserts are of course way more fragile than we like to imagine. And at the same time I’ve watched winters here grow warmer…

  3. Hi Dave–
    I just looked up chimonophile and couldn’t find it, although its components make sense… but found chionophile meaning animals that thrive in winter (My husky/wolf mix would qualify for some kind of Chionophile Award).

    Did you make this word up, you tricky dog you?

  4. Lovely! What a great interpretation of the aesthetic and emotional beauty of winter. I’ve been surprised at how much I enjoy these cold Eastern winters after a lifetime on the California coast. This’ll be my fourth out here, and I’m impatient for snow that sticks around.

    1. Ah-ha! Yes, and in recent years with winters so wimpy here compared to the way they were in the 70s, I’ve cast a longing eye toward New England and Canada — except during bug season, of course.

    1. Oh cool, I’ll go look. (If the trackback doesn’t show up, I’ll edit this comment to add the link.)

      (Edit) Here ’tis: Uncle Francis and the Gift of Enough

    1. Thanks for that page, John — great stuff! As you can see from the comments, I do know a few other wackos who are also big fans of the season, and seem as happy as me to have a word for the affliction.

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  6. Hm. Chimonophile at google only mostly gets you Dave Bonta. Chionophile, however gets lots of good-looking results. Not that you’re not very good-looking.

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