A Grammarian In Winter


Winter speaks in passive voice
conjugates brief slants of light
parses out cold stars along a tracery of oak.
Beneath the rising moon, fine participles gleam.
angling remnant leaves pull free
to tumble down the winds —
evocative declensions of a season raw, cold-boned.
Split by ice, the pond breathes smoke.
Split by cold, the blackened ferns release their sharded fronds.
Split by hoarfrost, fences drip, refreeze, lean out across the land.
Infinities abound.
Silent, shrouded by the pond’s slight breath
clear-eyed herons sweep the snow
as if to skry its source —
their spellbound cries declaim the day
and punctuate the  phrases  of the hills.

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Kaleidoscope Minds

Snow-envy is easy when you’re not the one shoveling a path through five-foot drifts or having to thaw door locks on a car.

Even so, when the photos arrive, sent along by friends determined to gloat or complain about their shimmering worlds, I’m surprised by how quickly I become transfixed. Glinting in the sunlight, piled high along fenceposts and streets, whorled into intricate, complex patterns against window and shed, the still-pristine drifts of freshly-fallen snow dazzle my eyes and my imagination. Always, they make me envious.

My envy is partly nostalgia, the remembered pleasure of snow angels and sledding. But snow also stirs to life a favorite fantasy – the possibility that life might be willing to grant us, if only occasionally, a perfectly clean slate. By reducing the physical world to the twin realities of sunlight and shadow, snow creates an illusion of  purity and simplicity, tempting us to imagine a human world equally free of complication and regrets. Watching snow cover the remains of desiccated autumn with a blanket of perfection, it’s easy to imagine life’s disappointment, pain, conflict and loss blanketed with similar layers of beauty and peace. Continue reading

Waiting for Snow

Anyone living in the swath of snow now stretching from Oklahoma to Illinois to New York, anyone who still is digging out from the storms that affected hundreds of communities across the country, could be forgiven for calling us crazy.

While they cope with feet of snow and the problem of where to put it, we’re fixated on breathless local forecasters and their obsessive reports on our “winter blast”, a weather event capable of bringing Life As We Know It to its knees. We’ve already received freezing rain. There are suggestions we may receive an inch – even two! – of sleet and snow in a few more days. They suggest we pay attention, and pay attention we do.

Of course we look silly to the outside world, but we know our limitations. Many of us don’t know how to drive in snow. We don’t know how to walk on ice. Our pipes are exposed to the weather and our plants begin to shrivel when temperatures dip below 40 degrees. We don’t have ice scrapers for our windshields or snow shovels for our walks. We don’t carry kitty litter in the trunks of our cars and we certainly don’t have de-icer for locks.  Not only that, we don’t dress right and we get cold. We’re the very definition of “wuss”. Continue reading

The Art of Winter

Grown to middle age, my calico is placid and content. She spends her days searching for perfect napping spots, occasionally indulging herself in bird-watching at the window. Long past the enthusiasms of kittenhood, her favorite excitement is shredding cheap tissue paper. She prefers white, although she’ll work with colored if forced, and each Sunday morning she gets a dozen sheets. For the next week she rolls in it, hides under it, buries toys in it and claws at it, until nothing is left but ribbony shreds and bits of paper.

Despite her increasing years and even temper, she dislikes every sort of storm. Lightning brings her to electrified attention. Thunder triples the size of her tail in a flash. The approach of a winter cold front sets her pacing for days. Once a low crosses the Red River, she begins to move restlessly from room to room. By the time it gets to Dallas, she’s tearing full-tilt through the house, circling around and around until she collapses in a panting heap.

She’s survived several tropical storms and two hurricane evacuations, and what she lacks in scientific knowledge she makes up for in pure instinct and experience – she knows storms are bad. When her people begin to fuss and mutter about systems still hundreds of miles away, she’ll head to her carrier, snuggle down into her sheepskin and wait it out: wide-eyed and anxious, uttering the low, undeciperable sounds she reserves for rising storms. Continue reading