Winter Again

I wake now to the gray skies of November, mornings begun in darkness, workdays ending in the same. Final skeins of migrating geese stretch pencil-thin against the clouds; snow squalls blow suddenly from the north, halt, then blow again. The sun makes its appearance, apologizes, and disappears. The wind bites. The temperature drops. Winter returns.

I feel a longing for days past. My breath catches. I want — I want the warmth of summer. I want to step outside and walk long roads to nowhere. I want to hear life around me, the cries of the red-tailed hawk, sparrows chirping in the grasses, sedge wrens calling from the cattails, red-wing blackbirds warning above the marshes, sand hill cranes trilling overhead or in distant fields. I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my shoulders.

The poet Wendell Berry wrote, “Beware the machinery of longevity. When a man’s life is over the decent thing is for him to die. The forest does not withhold itself from death. What it gives up it gives back.”

I recall Berry’s stark words as I pull-on my heavy outer gear and start my journey across the frozen field. Allow the progression of seasons, I counsel myself. Do not fight what cannot be fought. Be mindful of the present; be watchful of all life. Be here in this moment. Be here – love what is, this ending, this long quiet, for this ending is but a prelude for what is to come.

Eastward View Across Plowed Fields. Mid-November Snow

“Winter, with its inwardness,” Henry David Thoreau wrote, “is upon us. A man is constrained to sit down, and to think.”

Or to walk, I tell myself as I uncase my camera to photograph falling snowflakes. Or kneel, I say as I lean low to frame the peaks of the first drifts.

Falling Snow Along Shrubline. Mid-November
Mid-November Drifts, Shrubline

Berry, Wendell. “Prayers and Sayings of the Mad Farmer,” Collected Poems of Wendell Berry 1957-1982, 129. New York: North Point Press, 1987.

Thoreau, Henry David. The Journal of Henry David Thoreau­, Vol. 6, edited by Bradford Torrey, 91. Pittsburgh: Sportsman’s Vintage Press, 2016.

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17 thoughts on “Winter Again

  1. Beautiful photos! The milkweed and woodpecker hold such vivid colors. We just got our first snow in western Wisconsin, which always brings insane drivers. Like a child with training wheels, they have to relearn to drive in winter. Thank you for your post! I will strive to be in the moment as well.

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    1. Thank you, Shanice! I fear that I might be one of those insane drivers…not one of the daredevil ones, but one of the slow-pokey ones who worry about a 1/4 inch of new snow and hidden black ice. Guess I’ve slid too many times; perhaps I’ve seen one too many ditches. The milkweed was a surprise sighting so late in the season! The Lewis’ woodpecker was a traveler that had come east from the western ponderosa pines.

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      1. Yes, briefly I was in MN. It was nice late fall weather and I wanted to paddle but…that didn’t happen. Did a wonderful hike at Jay Cooke. Have a blog scheduled this winter about that experience.😊

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      2. I look forward to reading it! I love Jay Cooke State Park. I should pull together the story of my first trip there. It was one of those rare warm, spring days in Duluth, and I was visiting from Illinois with my older brother’s girlfriend. She and I were high schoolers checking out prospective colleges. My brother attended St. Scholastica. My brother wanted to spend the day at Jay Cooke with his girlfriend; but what to do with me? He corralled a foreign-exchange student-friend to spend the day with me. My brother directed us to the rocks of the St. Louis river at Jay Cooke and told us he’d come get us again later in the day. Parting, my brother told his friend that if he touched me, he’d be sorry! To this day I remember sitting all day on the rocks with his friend who was too frightened to utter much more than a few words. My brother and his girlfriend made their way back to us h-o-u-r-s later. Or so I remember.

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      3. He was Middle-eastern. But I do not remember from where. This was in the mid-1970s, and I was geographically ignorant (generally ignorant, in fact). It’s funny that such an indelible memory is missing such critical detail — who was I with? What was his name? Where was he from? Today, these would be the first details I’d cement in my memory. They would lead a story.

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