December 31, 2010

You're Welcome

Thank you, day, for this crisp air, for these wisps of sun, for hours as pristine and quiet as this. Sometimes to slow down we need no other choice, and it is later that we are grateful.

Thank you, month, for holly-berries and pine trees, for burning candles, for soprano and alto and tenor and bass voices sailing across lakes of snow, for little children in blue coats, for the scent of warm homes and family.

Thank you, winter, for coming again. In most cases, you are cold and treacherous and often unfriendly, but this is how the best of us get when we are lonely. Come on in to my house's corner. I will sidle up to the window and tell you a story. I promise, there will be snow on tongues and much laughing.

And thank you, year, for this visit, for stretching out your wide arms and twirling us into and out of your parlor. We talk about how quickly the days, months, and seasons go. We say, "Each year flies faster than the one before." And this may be true. But you are still you. One year. A collection of suns and moons and changing landscapes that are always, always, always the backdrop of our lives. Thank you for holding us up as we spin. As you spin. Thank you for holding steady even as you vibrate out, out, out. Thank you. You're welcome. You are welcome here.

December 28, 2010

Lake Susan Park

I cannot claim Lake Susan Park as a new destination. I have biked on its trails, read against its trees, studied its vegetation, and waded into its waters for several summers now. Occasionally I play tennis there, or stop by and watch a baseball game, my cheeks reddening in the sun. Always I am thankful that its 33-acres are close by, an open space that holds out its hands to the community.

Yesterday, a season later, I woke to fantastically blue skies--more true, I found, than those in summer--and a world that was frosted white. Hoar frost. The remaining goldenrod stalks stood frozen and glittering. The grove across the street resembled something out of a fantasy story, something with a name like Niffelvine or Ruumulus or Asgard. Everything seemed cast in a sleepy spell.
I went to Lake Susan with sleep still clinging to the corners of my eyes because I didn't want to miss the way the light was colliding with light. How long could something that beautiful last? How long, I wondered, can I walk about, over bridges, under the frozen arms of willow trees, up to the edges of iced-over water, marveling at a place that is still not summer? My cheeks grew rosy from the cold.

December 27, 2010

Walking Beside a Creek

Walking beside a creek
in December, the black ice
windy with leaves,
you can feel the great joy
of the trees, their coats
thrown open like drunken men,
the lifeblood thudding
in their tight, wet boots.

-- Ted Kooser
from Flying at Night

December 17, 2010

For You

"There is a privacy about [winter] which no other season gives you.... In spring, summer, and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself."
 -- Ruth Stout

December 12, 2010

White Out

"No," I said. "Let's stay inside, by this gas fireplace and our pot of soup and our dry woolen socks and warm blankets. That wind isn't out to make friends."

But who am I to say no to a walk, or at least convincingly so. My husband took out all our winter wear, tossed three choices of mittens on the floor, and--when I was layered-- zipped my jacket up so tight that I couldn't move my chin. Still, beyond our walls was an old fashioned Minnesota blizzard that was depositing in sum sixteen inches of snow. I glanced out our front window and could barely see across the street.

"Really. I don't know about this." I didn't. There was such howling, such icy gusts creeping through the opened door. I felt almost dread.

But I followed him. Into the cold. Into the wind. Into the flying pellets of frenzied ice that flung themselves into my once-warm cheeks and once-open eyes. "I can't see!" I cried, and was literally crying, thick tears soaking the edges of my scarf as quickly as the landed snow could find a thread of wool to melt into. But I was laughing, too, because the drifts were at some points up to my thighs and I kept falling over and I was glad I had this best friend with a mittened thumb to grab, leading me on into a time of year that I deep-down love, even if it is begrudingly so, that cold.

But in the woods there were no excuses. It became quiet, flakes still flying, but the wind less severe. We tromped up and down, through and over, until we came to a stream that was covered in white and too wide to leap. 

"Let's sit," he said. And we dropped, our bodies supported by a foot of fluff. Later we walked home, got in our small car, and braved the roads (his idea) for the promise of red licorice and red wine and good cuts of steak. But for a while we just reclined in beds of white, warmed by the limbs of trees, the last turning of yellow leaves, and an afternoon of being in the world.

December 10, 2010


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.

-- By Robert Louis Stevenson

December 8, 2010

What Color Is The Sky?

-- black
                                             -- black
                                                                                          -- black
-- purple
-- red
-- orange pink red pink orange fushia
-- pale pink
-- pale blue
-- blue
-- white
-- blue
-- white
-- bluewhitebluewhitebluewhitebluewhite
-- pale blue
-- hazy yellow, like grains of long rice
-- rose
-- rose
-- fushia orange pink red pink orange
-- fire
-- one last flash
-- embers
-- ash
-- black
                                           -- black
                                                                                           -- black