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Showing posts from February, 2011

"On Winter's Margin"

On winter’s margin, see the small birds now With half-forged memories come flocking home To gardens famous for their charity. The green globe’s broken; vines like tangled veins Hang at the entrance to the silent wood. With half a loaf, I am the prince of crumbs; By snow’s down, the birds amassed will sing Like children for their sire to walk abroad! But what I love, is the gray stubborn hawk Who floats alone beyond the frozen vines; And what I dream of are the patient deer Who stand on legs like reeds and drink that wind; - They are what saves the world: who choose to grow Thin to a starting point beyond this squalor. -- By Mary Oliver

Winter Air

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Find more of Robin's lovely voice (both the musical and literary variety) here and here.

Degrees of Separation

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We clomp across two inches of crusty snow that only days before had been a soft twelve; turn onto a narrow path dotted with two-hooved tracks and clusters of small, coffee-bean-like pellets; dig our toes into; stick our heels down; walk under bare, elegant maple and birch boughs until we come to Hunter Lake, covered now with slick ice the color of milk.


I have always been nervous about walking over frozen waterbodies. I know too many stories. Have heard too many echoes of ice cracking in my dreams. I cannot imagine the cold of that water, or perhaps I can, or the trying to brings pain enough. In any case, when we step out of the woods and onto this strange scientific plain, I am tight in my muscles, my limbs as rigid as sticks.
But there are four tall men ice fishing 200 feet away, and unlike the times before, I have a friend at my side who is more brave, less discouraged by recent high temperatures, and less shy, more easy with a held-out hand. So I follow her, shuffling--sliding preca…

Sticks and Snow

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This Bit of Earth

Yesterday morning I went for a walk, and there was ice, and I slipped--not wildly--yet enough so that my arms flailed, and I grabbed a nearby branch, and hoped for balance. But it wasn't a branch, really. More of a twig. And it snapped--a clean smooth break, like a bone, like a finger bone, like something fragile.
I held this piece of twig in my mittened hand, and I thought, How easy it is to be separated, how unlikely and unfortunate and strange. To be attached to something. To spend weeks and months and seasons and years shooting out of one particular tree, out of this earth, from some earlier seed of some other plant--to have all of that end in the palm of some clumsy woman? To have the breaking be that immediate, that no-looking-back?
The context is this: I've been thinking about death. In less than a week, I have lost two loved ones from different sides of my family (one of them young), and I keep driving down long open roads, looking at the snow, the bare trees, the gray g…

Late Afternoon

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Heavy With Stars

"I used to come out on winter nights, when the sky was heavy with stars. The shadowy trees, dignified and knowledgeable, seemed as much a part of the heavens as of earth, and I'd get the feeling that it wouldn't take much of anything to step into the blackness of the sky, that there wasn't any magic to becoming a part of it."

-- From A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton

The Luminary Loppet

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When I was a child, my favorite book was The Cross-Country Cat. No wonder: cross-country skiing held a mythic importance in my family. The snow-covered treks my parents would tell of their pre-children years were the stuff of lore to my brother and I, full of blizzards and coyotes and an unabashed love of the fresh air. We two were on skis as soon as we could run. It's because of this, surely, that I cannot remember a winter growing up without hearing the slice of my stride atop crisp, perfect snow, without recalling a deep-woods quiet so absolute it soaked into my bones and left me light.

So it was a bit of a shock to lock into my skis on Saturday night and push off not into some rural forest, but into a steady parade of thousands of people zipping across the groomed trails in their skis and snowshoes, all in celebration of the Luminary Loppet.
Quiet, it was not. Isolated, it was not (the festival took place on Minneapolis' Lake of the Isles, the city skyline shrouded by clouds…

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

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Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


-- Robert Frost

Animal Tracks in Snow

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First there were the blue heron tracks:

And then others, unidentified, that I have only captured in my mind. What is that, I asked myself. Who is that? When he came by here, what did he find?

When I think about it, of course, the blue heron tracks were not the first. I started noticing these markings when I was a little girl. On deep winter dawns, I'd wake, peek out my window, and see yard, trees, and street completely covered with a pristine blanket of the night's smooth snow--smooth, that is, except for the twice-ovaled trail of some long-gone rabbit who'd hopped from bush to tree trunk to hedge. Human footprints I never liked on those mornings; I wanted the world to stay as quiet and undisturbed as a snow globe. But a rabbit's footprints seemed to me a perfect pairing to that soft, white world. Every time I named her something new--Powderpuff, Dustbunny, Mrs. Lightfoot--already finding characters in a landscape I wasn't old enough to know I loved.

You love the nat…