A squall is moving in, blotting out
the hills on the north side of the valley.
The fire is hungry, greedily devouring
the day’s supply of wood. I don
my layers and step into the first edge
of the snow to pull more slab wood
from the pile. One plank after another
I hoist it into my arms, carry it in, making
three trips, then four. As I lift the last
piece from the pile, I stop, awed
at the sight before me. There, curled
in a hollow in the wood, rests a tiny
perfect mushroom, looking for all the world
like an embryo waiting to be born.
Life plants itself in such hidden places,
and manages, against all odds,
to keep on keeping on.
You stare out the window and see
the thermometer reading 0.
You have to go outside anyway.
If it helps, think of those mornings
when it was 78 and humid and you still
had to cut the grass. Everything’s
a trade-off. They interviewed
a woman on the TV’s noon news.
“The cold is bitter and biting!”
she scowled through her wool scarf.
I walked through the snow
just after sunrise and was stunned
by the world’s beauty. This afternoon
I visited a friend and heard the children
next door squealing in delight as they
raced down the hill on their sleds.
It’s forever true: It’s not what’s happening
that matters. It’s what you make of it.
Daybreak. I look past the frost
on the window in the loft
to see sunlight and a hint of blue sky.
Then the quills on the sill, standing
in their bottles of imaginary ink,
catch my attention to remind me
that the stories of the day
are mine to write and live and tell.
I hear an old familiar voice say,
“Choose well, Grasshopper.”
I smile and bow to the day.
The cold has settled in now, wrapping
itself tightly against every twig, pressing
itself deep into the soil, into the bones
of every living thing. But to think
of nothing else would guarantee
our misery. So the sky puts on
a light show to distract us, bathing
a stretch of charcoal clouds
in brilliance, sweeping white veils
across its deep blue. Here, children,
a little treat to remind you that
the moment holds far more
than you suppose.
If I were a wolf, I’d howl.
How could you not,
with this great gold globe
suddenly rising in the lavender sky,
spilling bowls of light on the snow?
How could you contain yourself?
Suppress your amazement?
I hadn’t expected it myself.
Walking in the opposite direction
I turned homeward and there it was,
so luminous and huge, floating
up over the eastern hills. I admit
my mouth opened in surprise.
I gulped in a big breath of frozen
air, then whispered, “Wow!”
But I’m pretty sure that if
I had been a wolf, I would have
By mid-afternoon, the clouds returned
bringing snow. It rained down in flakes
so small you could hardly see them at all.
The trees turned to ghosts behind
the frozen, billowing veil. But still
they danced, just as they had this morning
when the light of the New Year dawned
and the sky was blue. Let the winds howl
and the snow obscure our vision;
the New Year sings with hope,
and the world will dance, regardless.
Exactly at Midnight, the frost birds descend
to deliver the dream-seeds of the New Year.
They travel from afar, their wings made of songs
that sing of the glistening possibilities their gifts
hold. One goes to every being on the Earth—
to the curled, sleeping flower-forms, to all
creatures who fly or swim, who walk or crawl,
who stand rooted in the earth, or lay motionless.
There are no limitations. Those who are taking
their first breath receive them, and those
who are taking their last. And for one glittering
moment, everything in the world feels hope.
Everything is bathed in the light of the Yes.
Everything hears the song of the unlimited
possibilities, and every heart is quickened
by the touch of Infinite Love.
Except for the barking of a dog somewhere
on the other side of the valley and the cracking
of twigs beneath my boots, there is no sound.
Pillows of snow plop from trees. Powdery puffs
of it ride the slight breeze, billowing down. The sky,
white as the snow, is so low that only the trees
are holding it aloft. In my bright turquoise jacket
I feel out of place in this monochrome world
and wonder if I’m a clown wandering through
the trees’ dreams. As if to affirm it, above
my head, a bough of brittle oak leaves laughs.
The mighty winter lion roars,
its white mane blowing in the wind,
its breath, clouds of frost, its pelt
shaking off snow. It races
over the creek, ice forming
around its paw prints, the waters
roaring back to it as it hurtles
itself down the rushing stream
beneath an overhang of oak leaves
that shiver as it passes, brushing
against its frozen fur.
The day doesn’t invite. The thermometer
mandates mittens, heavy socks and boots,
your warmest jacket, thickest hat. I comply
and set out for the creek. Before the cold
clears my head, I judge it all as dreary,
a monotone of gray, nearly as featureless
as the low, heavy sky. I’m not even
half way to the creek when, as if
I’ve walked through some invisible
door, it all comes into focus, stunning
me with its textures and subtle hues.
This is the palette of cold, this icy blue,
these dancing rusts, the swaths
of dazzling white, the deep green boughs
of the pine. Now I have no body
at all, only the seeing of this