My ten-year-old hot-desert-weather Arizona niece Amy came to visit for the New Year holiday week, bringing my sister Jeanette with her. The night their airplane arrived (actually one o’clock in the morning), a dark wall of low purple clouds dumped six inches of new powder on the valley, just in time for Amy to take us sledding. Jeanette had dug their winter clothing out of her attic and checked a suitcase-full on the flight, so the girls were prepared. Continue reading
Near midnight, I lay in bed watching the snow fall outside the window, lit up by the strings of white lights on the eves. Just inside, Olaf, Winnie the Pooh, and Little Growler also watched the pretty sight. Morning brought the realization of the night’s big snow fall. A week before, three inches had settled. Before Dad and I got to the task of shoveling, our neighbor Terry plowed the snow off our driveway and sidewalks with his snow blower. But this snow fall was a full 12 inches of heavy new powder. I had not used Dad’s new snow blower before, but the pictorial instructions on the machine showed me how to prime, choke, and start the engine. The beast of a machine ground eagerly into the drifts, throwing a twenty-foot comet tail. My affection for the machine grew as it helped me with the enormous job, and I began thinking of it, perhaps appropriate to the season, as my Friendly Beast. The Beast and I sliced off a foot-width of snow at a time, passing back and forth a hundred times. The snow near the street sat on inches of slush, which stuck in the tines and snow chute. Twenty years ago, I met an elderly church volunteer who had severed his fingers cleaning out a clogged snow chute. With the memory of his bandaged stubs still fresh, I used a broom handle to ream out the chute, then plowed on. Just then Kevin’s car slid and stuck in the unplowed ruts in the road. “I’m stuck!” he shouted to me from his open window. I brought two shovels, and we cleared the ice from behind the tires. I had him back up slowly, careful not to spin the wheels, and he then was able to roll forward. He waved gratefully as he drove away, and I went back to the Beast. After two hours, the Beast and I finally finished the job. Dad came out, all bundled up, to wave and watch, then we went into the house for mugs of mint truffle hot cocoa mix.
A snowy Rabbit Lane
In arid Utah we are grateful for snows that persist through March, April, and sometimes even into May. I remember a May 1993 snowstorm that dropped a full three feet of new snow on the streets and yards of Salt Lake City, the year after I returned from being a Fulbright Scholar in Portugal to live with my grandmother, Dora. These Spring snows add high-mountain snow pack that continues to slowly percolate thousands of feet through fractured bedrock, into valley aluvia, recharging the aquifers that allow us to turn the desert into a rose. So, even though I post this poem at the end of March, it is still snow season in Utah. I hope you enjoy the poem.
Sky lets down her snow
in slow and heavy flakes
all the long day
as if the world, everywhere,
has never known but snow:
slow and easy, flakes
in my thinning hair,
granting shy moist cool
kisses on the bulb
of my nose, on my soft
sagging cheeks, crystals resting
on lashes looking up
to a distant gentle font.
Wind does not dare to blow.
–Be kind. Always.–
Turning from north to south at the half-way point on my Rabbit Lane walk, I look southeast toward the mountain peaks still sleeping under the early-morning sky. A star rises from behind a peak and continues in its slow journey toward zenith.
To the east of where I walk, strings of lights move slowly in the distance, white lights crawling forward, red lights inching away, two parallel lines of progress making their way to and from the offices and factories and stores of wares. They send forth a collective engine-and-tire hum to hover over the fields with the fog. A Union Pacific train’s whistle flows out gently over the valley from its tracks on Lake Bonneville’s fossil bank. In the west, the lighthouse, itself out of sight, emits soft sweeping beams: white-green-white-green. The beams penetrate Winter’s ice-crystal air to trace slow arcs across the gray belly of the sky, a ceiling above me, above Rabbit Lane. The universe of stars—the heavens—are out there, somewhere farther above, hanging mostly hidden by clouds. My fingers, toes, ears, and nose ache from the crystalline cold. Continue reading
–Sweetness: that which induces a slow rolling of the tongue, a gentle closing of the eyes,
and an escape from the lips of a sensuous, sighing, “ahh.”–
Two young girls rode their bicycles down Church Road coming from the direction of Rabbit Lane. Working in the yard, I looked up just as one bicycle, ridden by the younger girl, slid on a gravelly patch, and she fell face forward onto the asphalt. I ran toward the crying girl, about six years old, with my concerned children following close behind. Blood oozed from abrasions on the girl’s knee and elbow and cheek, and a tooth was broken. Continue reading
While I don’t care for the cold of winter, I find that winter walking reveals unparalleled beauty despite the leafless trees, and brings unique pleasures and insights, such as those discussed in this poem. And winter mornings are quiet. So, as much as I prefer the warmer seasons, I still enjoy bundling up and heading to Rabbit Lane for pre-dawn winter walks. (For more discussion of winter walks in the snow, see the Rabbit Lane: Memoir page of this blog, Chapter 8: Tracks in the Snow post.)
I LEFT THE HOUSE
I left the house
to walk a long walk
through the uncertain silhouettes
of morning’s pre-dawn dim,
and found that
Heaven had graced Earth,
with a covering of snow,
soft on the hard, frozen earth,
pale gray in the lingering starlight.
On the farm road,
tire tracks sliced and sullied the snow,
leaving long, undulating ruts
I quickly chose the ease of the rut.
Then I found the tracks of
other travelers—mice, rabbits, a raccoon—
meandering, veering, crossing,
as necessary or desirable.
Then I, too, left the pre-established path,
and made my own way through the snow.
The frozen crust crunched and gave way
under the weight of my boots;
each step sent up a small crystalline cloud;
white snow caps clung to my toes;
my legs protested with burning fatigue at
the effort of resisting the rut.
The snow turned from gray to white with the fading of night,
tinged with the pink of impending sunrise.
In the undisturbed snow beside the rutted tracks,
the sun’s first rays revealed an infinity of microscopic prisms,
sparkling brief flashes of rainbow color.
In the distance behind,
the house waited patiently for my return.
–Wherever I am, I find that the road stretches both ahead and behind.–
From the airport lighthouse shine alternating beams of white and green light, ghostly sweeping columns in the crystalline air against the undersides of low-hanging clouds. Here, walking in this desert, I imagine a lighthouse perched on a craggy rock cliff, overlooking ocean waves beating themselves in ferocious crashes against the rock, and ships with trimmed sails rocking, taking on water, close to sinking, with frantic, frightened sailors looking to the light as to a savior, the only thing in the world they can cling to, trust in. Continue reading