Here on the threshold of March
Jack paints another scene,
perhaps his last, or nearly so,
of things to come. Look for rain,
he says, and for birds and ferns.
It’s his message of hope as winter
begins to roll up her white tent,
head for the rails that will take her
out of town. Few will be sorry
to see her go despite the gifts
she’s given. It’s been a long haul.
But here is Jack, saying look for rain.
And beneath the last few inches
of snow, I think that I hear
purple crocuses stirring.
Only now, that you are about to go,
do I find myself looking at you
with as much wonder and awe
as when you first fell, spreading
your smooth blanket on the ground.
How many of your light cells have fallen
since then, blinking in and out
of existence? More than the stars
in the sky or the ocean’s sands.
You stretch our understanding
of abundance that much more.
How could we ever have believed
that the Yes knows limitation!
It wasn’t much, as sunsets go.
Yet how eagerly my eyes fled
to its bits of pink and coral,
rare colors in this season
of brown woods and blue snow.
I held them to my heart and dreamed
of summer roses, draped
in these sweet hues.
Only after I had drunk my fill
of them did I notice the tracks
in the snow, an X and an O,
made by someone at play
and left as a kiss and hug
on the snow, because
it, too, is loved
in someone’s heart.
Things can only get so intense.
You can only shiver so much,
see so much gray, plow
through so much snow.
Then the gift comes:
sunlight, the sight of birds
flying in blue sky.
Life gives us breathers,
days when we can soften
the muscles of our shoulders,
move with ease, remember
the suppleness of our strength,
and ready ourselves
to keep on.
Look how the snow blends the colors of cloud
and sky, smoothing them into a fusion all its own.
Look how it clears the stage to accentuate
the grace of the lone tree , and how the tree,
more than thrice our height, points
to the vastness of the sky.
Hear how the wind plays for this ballet,
its symphony sweeping the ground,
and rising in a crescendo to the sky.
Taste the sharpness of the cold.
Feel the magnificence of the dance.
Let if lift you high.
Someday, when we’re gathered
on some warm and welcome world
and the Earth, from which we came,
is covered in ice and snow,
and we’re remembering all we saw
that brought a thrill to our eyes,
let us remember a time
when, looking out our windows,
on a February morning, we saw
sunshine glinting off translucent ice
and thought that it was beautiful.
The morning dawned clear and for precious hours
the sun danced with clouds and sent its warmth.
Much of the snow that was heaped on the tree limbs
tumbled in soft puffs to the ground. But except
for their almost invisible marks, the woods’ snowy floor
stretched trackless, as if no one lived there at all.
How could they? In this stark and frozen
world, how can it be that anything survives?
And yet they do. Hidden somewhere
out of sight squirrels cuddle, and rabbits,
raccoons, coyotes, deer and fox find shelter
and sustenance. Even the wee mice
and chickadees manage somehow to endure.
When night fell, so did bitter cold.
But in the clear sky, a crescent moon smiled,
as if to say that all below was known,
and seen, cared for, and loved.
As advertised, the snow began just after dawn.
It fell all day, in those nearly invisible flecks
that you have to squint to see, piling on the braches
in its graceful sort of way. And even though
it’s late in the season, and many days have brought snow,
you had to acknowledge its beauty.
Your heart goes out to those for whom
the storm brought ice and loss of power,
downed trees, blocked roads, personal tragedies.
Across the globe, the news says, hurricanes struck.
But the photos of demolished homes stood
side by side with pictures of young surfers
thrilling to the enormous waves.
Every moment brings both elation and grief.
It comes with the ride. I like to think that maybe
someone warned us before we bought the ticket.
I would have come anyway, only to find
it was as advertised, and then some.
I promised you that when the snow was deep
and I had begun to believe that winter was eternity,
I would remember you. I would remember
your countless shades of green, your plush grass
buzzing with bees and clover, and the smell of it.
I would remember the warmth of your sun
and the blessing of the breeze singing through
your dancing leaves, and the sheer, inviting
welcome of your being.
And now that day has come, the one where I began
to believe that winter would go on forever.
I confess that I didn’t choose to remember;
the memory of you came to me on its own,
drifting across the cold, gently emerging
with a touch of kindness that I could not ignore.
And so I sit here, before my fire, waiting
for the assault of another coming storm,
and I lose myself in your rolling verdant hills
until my eyes tear with gratitude
for comfort of you, for remembering
you are as real as the cold, and will return.
I switch on the yard light and see the scene
etched like some cartoon on the glass of my front door.
“Incoming,” Jack writes in his frosty hand.
Behind me, a voice floats from the radio
naming the cities in the path of the next storm:
Denver, Wichita, Kansas City, St. Louis,
Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh,
Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, and Portland, Maine.
“You’re not funny, Jack,” I say, switching off the light.
But at least he tells the truth and warns me
like some trusted old friend.