Thoughts of cold and snow in a ‘Freezy’ December

Featured image: Sky over Oliver Lake on Saturday morning, 16 December.

Cornwall Cogitation (North America) #12 Saturday 16 December 2017   A season of cold and snow has arrived for many of us. Gotta love it, somehow.

What’s to love, though, with the prospect of hazardous travel, changing to snow tires if you live in a snowier region, bundling up the kids, being subject to cabin fever?

Provisioned. Prepared. Plenty. Three words to say how nice it would be to share java, jam and toast.

What poets have to say about snow and cold

The works of venerable English poets help me see that there’s more to cold and snow than shoveling the sidewalk, shivering, and being part of the havoc caused for and by commuters, truckers, and travelers.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) describes what to notice when the wind blows the snow around, calling it, “The frolic architecture of the snow” (from The Snowstorm). For a moment, looking out the window, I see the ghost of a peripatetic architect at work (or frolic).

Another image, this one from Ben Jonson (1575?-1637): “Have you marked but the fall o’ the snow / Before the soil has smutch’d it?” What better word captures the oozing of a dark stain through new fallen snow? So much to do with smutch.

The Prayer Book (1662) lauds the Creator as the source, beauty, and, with a twist, the inescapable effect of snow and cold:  “He giveth snow like wool: and scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes, / He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who is able to abide his frost?” So lovely and picturesque, even as it brings one up short with the “abide his frost” zinger.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) says it well for some people I know: “I love snow, and all the forms / Of the radiant frost.”

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) wrote this in Mid-Winter: “In the bleak mid-winter / Frosty wind made moan, / Earth stood hard as iron, / Water like a stone; / Snow had fallen, snow on snow, / Snow on snow, / In the bleak mid-winter, / Long ago.”

As noted, you gotta love how poets and others give voice to the ordinary, everyday stuff of life, with keen application to the larger sphere we live in. I’ve taken these quotes from The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Third Edition, (Oxford University Press, 1979, 1980). Of the entries, the Preface writer R.T.B. (who might be Richard Brain) noted, “[I]t is hoped that for their familiarity or relevance or sheer appeal they resonate a bell in the memory, or carry a ring of aptness and truth, or just simply entertain and amuse.”

For aptness and amusement I quote twelve words, one for each month, starting in January, from Twelve Months, by George Ellis (1753-1815):

Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,

Showery, Flowery, Bowery,

Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy,

Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.

From “frolic.” “smutch’d.” “snow like wool . . . ice like morsels . . . withstand his frost?” “I love snow,” to “Freezy,”these words leap off the page with surprise and delight. “Poetry is meant to surprise and delight,” wrote Linda Neal Reising in her book of poetry, Re-Writing Family History (Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, Kentucky, 2014, 32 pages). We bought this book at the poetry reading event last Saturday (see last week’s post) in Fountain City, Indiana. “I hope my poems do both.”

They do. Reading these poems reminds me again how poets squeeze truth out of words, revealing the secrets of family, place, and times in a deeply personal, insightful, sometimes painful but redeeming and liberating way. One back cover notation writer said, “One comes away from these poems as one comes away from a family reunion–filled with joy and pain, comfort and sadness. A real pleasure to read.”

In the poem, The Trail, Linda Neal Reising tells of showing a young boy the marks of winter across a snow-covered field. She wants to teach him “to read these signs, / to follow the paths, / to track the wild. / Later, when he’s older, / I’ll tell the story of another trail / his earlier grandmothers followed / so many bitter winters ago, / leaving along the miles their footprints– / erased by the biting white wind.”

Linda Neal Reising is a native of Oklahoma and a member of the Western Cherokee Nation. She holds an M.A. from the University of Evansville and retired after 32 years of teaching English.

Mural across the street from the Levi and Catharine Coffin house.

Blizzard anyone?

Someone quipped, “If you want a blizzard, go to Dairy Queen.” Sure thing, but let’s make it an infrequent pleasurable experience. The pleasure of experiencing nature’s blizzards rests mainly in recounting how we fared.

My own snow story

When I was a kid, maybe in Grade 1 or 2, my mom took a picture of one of my brothers and me sitting on top of a snow bank that the township plows had made that left only a few feet of the telephone pole sticking out. We were the masters of Snow Mountain. That’s my story and I remember it well. I wish I’d remember where I put the photo.

Saturday family gathering

Today the extended family of Doris and the late William I. Mast gathered for Christmas dinner at an Amish home that caters for groups. We were 30 adults and a good number of children. Delicious meal, singing Christmas carols, further visiting at the home of Chris and Heidi Mast.

William, or Bill as we called him, died a year ago. We remember him with fondness and often tell stories of how much he enjoyed working at the hardware after he gave up milking cows. Doris’s sisters Mary and husband Gerald and Marty and I joined the circle this year.

Make memories. Tell stories. Build family. Love snow.

-John

 

4 thoughts on “Thoughts of cold and snow in a ‘Freezy’ December

  1. I remember snow almost to the top of the hydro wires, the road was pure white with these mountains of snow pushed to the sides. And at times when aunt Vera couldn’t get home from work I would walk this cold road to stay the night with Granny. To know I got there safely we would flick the porch light three times. My clothes would warm up at her wood stove. I think I could write a poem about the snow and cold too.

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  2. Thanks for your winter musings, John. I identify with your love of words and the surprise and delight of poetry. I enjoyed reading your Snow Mountain memory of you and your brother conquering the snow plow remains. I imagine you had some snowy winters in Ontario!

    One of our delights this time of year is singing Christmas carols and the music set to Bleak Mid-Winter is one of my favorite. Best wishes to you and Marty for a freezy, joyful Christmas warmed by the simple luxury of hot coffee and tea!

    Monty & Ginger

    My iPad says that a smile always increases your Face Value!

    >

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