Reminiscing Around the Thermometer

Yesterday was a cold day here in Minnesota. The radio, as I drove to work, was full of stories about living with the cold and hourly updates on the descent of the thermometer. Minnesotans have a well-deserved fascination with the weather. The extremes of summer and winter hit us much harder than the rest of the nation, than most of the rest of the world. Such is the beauty of living in the middle of a continent.

Although Wallace Stevens was a resident of Connecticut I would like to claim him as the poet of my winter. No one I know captures the way the weather begins to inhabit the soul, the way the cold shapes a life, better than Stevens. The Snow Man is a perfect example:

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.

The winter seems to clear the senses. It’s hard to become wrapped up in oneself when one needs to concentrate on the wordl outside. But there is also an ambivalence, winter reveals the boughs of the trees and hide the dirt of the land, at the same time. And it’s that ambivalence that I value.