I learned this word last year when my husband gave me Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape edited by Barry Lopez for Christmas. “A snowfield covered with sastrugi can look like the top of a lemon meringue pie, or like a desert sandscape, sculpted by wind into curvaceous dunes. The word comes from the Russian zastrugi, meanining a small ridge or furrow in the snow.”
Gretchen Legler, an associate professor in the Program in Creative Writing at the University of Maine at Farmington and the author of this definition, makes the point that the term ‘snow wave’ is not totally accurate because the sastrugus can have fantastic shapes that the term snow wave does not capture. I am familiar with some of these fantastic shapes, especially along our road. Legler is the author of On the Ice: An Intimate Look at Life in McMurdo Station and Antarctica.
Home Ground is a fascinating book defining terms from acequia or irrigation ditches found throughout the American Southwest to jolla which “means hollow, which is, apparently, what the settlers of La Jolla originally had in mind” to zigzag rocks built by Native Americans, notably in the Northwest, to trap fish. The book is a whole education in geology and history through word definitions.