Tag Archives: snow

Snow and pastels.

As I was making my last sweep through the house to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, my attention was caught by movement outside the kitchen windows, and I delayed my departure five minutes because of birds: doves, finches, a dozen juncos, a titmouse, a chickadee, a pair of Nutall’s woodpeckers — many hanging off the suet feeders to fortify them against the freezing weather coming through.

And this guy, whom I stared at for as long as he perched there, not recognizing him, as he was the biggest, fattest robin I have ever seen.

Then, I loaded myself in the car and off I drove, north to daughter “Pippin’s.’ The first hours were through winter-greened and gentled landscapes.

But now I am in the mountain forest.

I forgot to pack my laptop, so this post may come out a bit strange. When I arrived Pippin was just putting bread dough to rise next to the woodstove, and cats Fred and Duncan were not feeling the winter at all.

Scout helped me unload my car, and we admired icicles together.

This morning I woke in a cozy room with this view out my window:

Dear Readers who have kept me company here during the past year, or who only recently stopped by, I hope that in 2022 you also find comfort and peace. My advice: Try not to stand under large melting icicles.

Happy New Year!

Some poems are heavy and longing.

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Same week, some years ago…

This morning I had a date to iron altar cloths at church. If it hadn’t been for that, I think I might have read poems all day. Bright and early I found myself listening hungrily to The Daily Poem podcast, which I sometimes ignore for weeks at a time. Today, by contrast, its offerings seemed like my necessary food, cultivating hope and peace in my heart the way bodily exercise generates endorphins for the brain and psyche.

Not all poems are tasty, but even the bitter ones supply certain kinds of trace elements, hints and explorations of the worlds that lie underneath the clamoring and crowded surfaces where we walk every day. I like very much the engagement with the poets themselves, people who often do appreciate the mystery of things, but I usually avoid long poems. These very short poem podcasts help me to focus and enjoy works I might not normally read, even some longer poems; because it’s all auditory, and I can’t see how long of a poem or portion will be read, and be put off by it.

Today one of the podcast hosts, Heidi White, talked about the poem “Velvet Shoes,” by Elinor Wylie. She told us about her own longing, two days after Christmas, for peace and quiet, after the busyness of the holiday, and how this poem conveys the heaviness of the snow, and how that heaviness creates silence and a kind of weighty peace, “…the feeling you get going into the nave of a great cathedral.”

VELVET SHOES

Let us walk in the white snow
    In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
    At a tranquil pace,
    Under veils of white lace.

I shall go shod in silk,
    And you in wool,
White as white cow’s milk,
    More beautiful
    Than the breast of a gull.

We shall walk through the still town
    In a windless peace;
We shall step upon white down,
    Upon silver fleece,
    Upon softer than these.

We shall walk in velvet shoes:
    Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
    On white silence below.
    We shall walk in the snow.

-Elinor Wylie, 1885-1928

The longing expressed in the few stanzas is impressive. We do start to wonder if the narrator will break out of the future tense and make it the present. Personally, I think that if she were truly hopeful of walking in the whiteness, she would do the activity first, and then write about it. Unless it is a sort of love letter, to someone not present at the moment. It seems to be as much about longing — and maybe purity? — as it is about snow.

Winter at Pippin’s place.
The Daily Poem hosts talked to me about several other poems as I was getting dressed, by W.H. Auden, Edward Thomas, George Santayana and Mary Oliver. Of course, many of the recent offerings have been autumnal or Advent-themed poems, but I enjoyed them all. I may save some to post here in the appropriate season next year.
 

“Velvet Shoes” may have especially impressed me because I am anticipating walking in the snow myself this week, if my plans work out to visit Pippin. And here I was, just yesterday, going on about fire and warmth….

I always think I do not want to visit snowy and cold places, but whenever I do, it’s fun. Did you notice that in spite of the narrator’s silk and lace garments, there is no mention of the cold? That might mean that it is just the poem for me!

Splash of fall – then Christmas.

The dwarf pomegranate bushes that are at the four corners of the fountain, are just now at their most beautiful. You can see how they contrast with the dark corner where the greenhouse spends winters, in the shade of my tall house. In spite of that darkness, I have hope for a more favorable growing environment in the greenhouse, because I got it wired with outlets for heat and light and even a breeze when needed.

Many unripe figs  held on to the tree, until they turned purple from frost and had to let go.

The day after I took this picture, I drove north to Pippin’s, for a sort of early Christmas. Here there is also some color — mostly forest-green and white; the snow began to fall just as I was arriving! But also some bright spots like this pumpkin.

The snow on the road turned to ice, sending one of our vehicles into the ditch. It wasn’t mine, and I didn’t hear about it until everything was resolved. Pippin baked a pie with Honeycrisp and vowed Never Again. Pippins (the apples) are the best! But the deer relished the peelings; I watched the doe repeatedly kicking one fawn away from the bowl in which they had been served. Other humans liked the pie very much and it was beautiful and tasty — just not appley enough.

We had the best sort of evening with a few family members I haven’t seen since last Christmas, and even sang carols — for a blessedly prolonged while. (We had already sung “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” around the Advent wreath before dinner.) Enough of us could carry a tune and even lead off, that the two pianists present were glad to be able to sing rather than play, and it was truly joyous singing.

The cousins made paper airplanes together, and Scout told his uncle all about the latest novel he is reading. He also played his newly learned guitar piece. He has been busy cutting Christmas trees in the mountains and then selling at the Boy Scouts’ lot, and their tree was one of those. It is so pristine and elegant, and pointing straight to the heavens, that I could not believe it was real. It is a red fir.

Several of our group have been working really long and odd hours lately, and it seemed a miracle that the logistics worked out for us to be together. I am joining two church school meetings on ZOOM in two days, which meant that both teachers of our high school class and the special guest we had were all participating from a distance. If we weren’t meeting online I’d have had to get a substitute. So that worked well, too.

Too soon, I’ll be driving back down the road and home again, and will proceed with Advent. I think I might add to my preparations a new tradition, and start singing remotely — but oh, so closely — with my family, a nightly round of  “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

My birthday Christmas in March.

My birthday hasn’t yet arrived, but since I’m unlikely to see any of my children on the proper day, the family I was with just a few days ago gave me a celebration. (Soldier had planned to come here from Colorado with Liam one day, but he wisely cancelled that trip.) Presumably we’ll all be holed up apart from one another when I cross over to a new age.

The first special thing Pippin did was to drive me and the children to a succulent farm she’d been wanting to visit. We took a picnic and ate on the way; it took us a while, as it’s in Fort Jones, sort of in the middle of “nowhere,” and not a place that succulents would grow naturally, but the whole operation is in greenhouses. Maybe some of you have ordered from Mountain Crest Gardens. If you like succulents, you would have feasted your eyes on the long rows of charming species and collections.

One of them I did not find charming, only strange:

Pippin wanted to get me a few for my birthday and I chose these that are different from anything I already have:

I put them in my car to keep them safe, and I checked on them one day to see that they weren’t getting too cold. I didn’t notice then that the one on the right had evidently gotten too cold, and no wonder. My car looked like this one of those mornings.

I knew I wouldn’t be keeping that plant outdoors in the winter here, and I don’t know why I didn’t have more sense about how cold it would get in my car. At least, it is only damaged, not killed. Scout also came home with a little succulent, and Ivy collected various leaves and stems off the greenhouse floor which I told her were likely to grow into plants if they were in dirt, so she put them all together in one pot when she came home.

The second birthday surprise was nothing anyone could have planned: a big snowfall of the powderiest sort, followed by a morning when we could easily walk down the road a few paces to a good spot for sledding. That day Jamie had looked out the window and beamed, “It feels like Christmas!” and when I asked why, he said because of the snow.

I realized then how special a treat it was, after their relatively dry winter, that this dumping of perfectly fun snow should happen while I was there, and actually, on the perfect day. I had tried to make my visit other weeks that should have been more wintry. Now, in the middle of March, came my birthday gift from God.

If not for the children, I’d have been happy to look at the snow through the window, but being able to accompany them and watch them literally throw themselves into it was the joy and the gift.

They were thankful for this late snow because when it was Christmas on the calendar their family had just returned from my house and collapsed sick. They couldn’t even eat their Christmas cookies that had been laid by.

As we were pulling on our snow boots and rummaging around for the bibs and gloves, Scout said, “When we come back we can have tea with leftover Christmas cookies!”

Jamie broke trail heading for the little hill alongside the railroad track, and soon the children had smoothed out a sledding run. But after a while they all seemed to like as well merely rolling down the railroad embankment, or in the case of Ivy, just diving and splashing around in the snow, eating it.

Two days before, I had walked through the forest with the children, trying to identify species of lichens, and noticing stages of manzanita growth or death. This day the manzanita blooms were set in fluffy white.

On the embankment next to where freight trains run many times a day, snowballs form on their own, maybe from the wind of the train rushing past?

We did go home and eat those Christmas cookies and drink our tea. The Professor blew a path through the snow for me to walk on back to where I was sleeping, in a sort of guest cottage across the street. The next morning  the scene showed my tracks with no new snow.

Too many of my children have moved to where the winters are cold and snow is common, and the older I get, the more I try to avoid visiting them during the winter. I should try to remember that every visit I have had in snowy weather has been fun; remember the last time when I taught Liam and Laddie to make snowballs? This week’s snow made good snowballs, too! It was another blessed birthday to remember. ❤