One of the benefits of retirement is that impending snow storms are of little consequence to me. I don’t have to fixate on road conditions, check my weather app for updates, take part in the weather-chain, or leave extra time for warming and scraping the car. It’s great not to have to concern myself with missing appointments or rescheduling clients. I can luxuriate under the warm covers, leaving the chore of driving to work on a snowy day to my younger neighbors.
I also have the time to appreciate the beauty of a sudden December snow-scape. I can ramble in the woods, admire the snowy scaffolding on the deck, watch my cats try to catch the snow flakes on the other side of the glass, or read some of my favorite snow poetry. Snow has a way of interrupting routines and allowing us to see the usual vistas in a new way. Poetry does the same by using metaphor to illuminate through unusual comparisons.
When I was a child, the first snow-fall of the season was the signal to read snow poetry. “Winter-Time” by Robert Louis Stevenson, “It Sifts from Leaden Sieves” by Emily Dickinson, and “Winter Morning Poem” by Ogden Nash were three of my favorites. At the first sign of snow each year, my father would leaf through The Golden Age of Poetry to find our snow poems and read them to me at bedtime. When I was old enough, I read them to him. I kept up the tradition by reading snow poems to my daughter when she was young, and she, in turn, has been reading them to her boys. Leave it to Stevenson, Dickinson and Nash to use just the right metaphors to help us recall, feel, and more deeply experience the magic of cold, snowy days.
Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.
Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.
Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.
When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.
Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.
It Sifts from Leaden Sieves
It sifts from Leaden Sieves-
It powders all the Wood-
It fills with alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles of the Road.
It makes an Even Face
Of Mountain and of Plain-
Unbroken Forehead from the East
Unto the East again.
It reaches to the Fence-
It wraps it, rail by rail.
Till it is lost in Fleeces-
It flings a Crystal Veil
On Stump and Stack and Stern-
The Summer’s empty Room,
Acres of Seams where harvests were,
Recordless but for them
It ruffled Wrists of Posts,
As Ankles of a queen-
Then stills its Artisans like ghosts,
Denying they have been.
Winter Morning Poem
Winter is the king of showmen,
turning tree stumps into snow men,
And houses into birthday cakes
And spreading sugar over lakes.
Smooth and clean and frosty white
The world looks good enough to bite.
That’s the season to be young
Catching snowflakes on your tongue.
Snow is snowy when it’s snowing
I’m sorry it’s slushy when it’s going.