On the last day of January


I’ve been thinking about Wallace Steven’s poem, The Snow Man, for weeks now, because, of course, it’s winter and it’s January.

I wanted to write something about having a “mind of winter”, expecting to have experienced it, even for just a day, as I have in winters before.

But this January’s rickrack weather hasn’t cooperated. It’s too ragged and unpredictable for me to have relaxed into the rhythm of ice and snow, the logs being fed methodically into the wood stove, the shovel scraping the driveway, the sliding of one ski past the other on the trail, the shuffling of snowshoes up and over the snow-plowed mound at the end of the driveway.


Instead, we’ve swung from -25 degrees one day to +50 degrees another, from snow to rain to ice to sun and blue skies, from sequin-scattered snow to squeaky styro-foam snow to fog, slush, mush, mud.

How can I settle into that mesmeration of cold, still resilience, with all of this meteorological commotion?

As much as I resent the oncoming of winter (I have a mind of spring), there’s something to be said for that band of weeks against which you can do nothing but read, sit by the fire, make soup and bread, and be excused up to bed early just because it’s dark by 4.30.

January woods

The yard and garden are silent. The animals understand if you don’t want to play outside; they’re in hunker-down mode, too. You’re vaguely aware of plans that need or ought to be made, for some future time when the cold is cracked open and seedlings sprout, but… not yet. Not yet.

Tonight, just pull the covers up to your chin, listen to the wind roar, watch the flakes flutter down.

Snow river

I’m greedy for that mental state: the whirling world putting a kind hand on my shoulder, telling me that nothing at all is required.

The wind is whistling across the yard now and the temperature is dropping again.

The wind slammed the barn door hard this morning when I was inside loading hay into the feeders. The goats were munching gently and they didn’t seem bothered by the wind and the noise. All they were interested in was the hay, and the animal crackers in the cookie jar, and a good rub against their foreheads.

It was warm enough this morning that I lingered there, jealous of the cozy barn and their herdness, and grateful for the way they welcome me into that herd though I’m clearly not a normal goat. And while I was there, I lost for a bit that mental list of things to do, or what was outside, or what was coming in an hour, or where I had failed or what I had meant to do and be.

That moment, and the true locked-down January, are like the hours of travel from here to there, when the only point is the movement. Nothing else is required. Nothing.