Thursday, January 22, 2009

winter (2)

It is now light enough when I get home to go and tromp around in the snow for about 40 minutes, from 5-5:40. It's the most gorgeous thing, really. The snow is very white and heaped in creamy hillocks. After one day my tracks are drifted into soft ridges or filled in completely. It's stayed cold enough that the snow is powdery and moving like sand. I think this is the reason to have 80 acres.

Now the deer are walking in my footsteps, the indentations left by the snowshoes.

The light changes pretty quickly and pretty dramatically, as the sun goes down red over the ridge where I-94 rises up a few fields over. Everything is incredibly soft. I think about taking pictures, but I know I couldn't capture it. You just have to be there. And it isn't easy-- after work to put on my snow gear and go out. I think of my mother who swims all winter in the early morning. She gets up in the dark and cold and puts on a bathing suit and jumps in a chilly pool at the high school. I could never do that. It's the best exercise for her because she has some arthritis in her hip. And my mother is driven by virtue. She knows it is good for her, and so she does it. I use this as a motivator to get myself outside-- because this is so much easier to do, dress warm and walk out into the beautiful landscape. And I've just this week reached some fitness plateau so it's easier.

I am a little surprised at just how much I like winter. I realize I'm bonding with this property the way I didn't in summer, when everyone said it was so beautiful. The flowers and weeds and thistles were high and there was much more of a barrier for me. Now I can really walk out into it. I feel like I can see everything and make my way. I feel much less likely to get lost, or overwhelmed. Even though it requires equipment, it is so much more approachable and manageable to me now. In the summer it's hot and I like to sit on the screen porch and feel the wind and watch the sun go down from there. It's a picture. But this is inviting to me.

All this makes me think of Wallace Stevens's poem "The Snow Man" in a different way. It always felt like a really gloomy poem, sort of nihilistic, but now it seems sort of the opposite.

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Well, I don't feel like "nothing" myself, and I do think when you say "not to think / Of any misery" you introduce the idea of misery in the poem even though you're negating it.

But I do feel that this winter, walking around our property, I am seeing "nothing that is not there and the nothing that is." And I do think it's because we had those days below zero that now, "cold a long time," I can walk out and be part of the landscape with the milder cold of 15 degrees.

There's a realness to the place, to every single thing. Every prickled stem and piece of grass that pokes out of the snow. And today I walked past three cattails-- and thought, "Now I'm in the wetlands." Places I can't go in summer. Suddenly clear and every piece separate and lovely.

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