The Winter Solstice (December 21) is more than a month away. Thirty-nine days if you want to count. This morning's temperatures were in the teens. The extended forecast doesn't call for temperatures to return to the forties until November 21. I hope so, or else this may be a lonngg Winter.
At the beginning of this week, the Sunrise River channel through the nearby pools in Carlos Avery was open water. No more. Now it looks quite a bit like this. I suspect any geese still in the neighborhood have moved to Forest Lake or other open waters. As the geese move out, juncoes are moving into the neighborhood for the Winter. They hop around the deck, checking out the mess the goldfinches, chick-a-dees and nuthatches make at the feeder. [UPDATE: today the first purple finch of the season showed up at the feeder.] Lets see, freeze up underway; snow cover in place, daily high temperature below freezing but neither astrological nor meteorological Winter has started yet. Sigh!
Photo by J. Harrington
I know that many Minnesotan's relish this weather. I saw my first snowmobile of the season yesterday. For the rest of us, though, remember how Shelley ended his Ode to the West Wind: "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" There, doesn't that make you feel better? No? Well, try this.
If you're not into collecting frost bite, there's lots of books to put on your Christmas list or check out of your local library. I'm looking forward to reading Rebecca Solnit's latest book of essays, my growing interest in lyrical essays and flash nonfiction probably means I'll be re-reading Terry Tempest Williams' When Women Were Birds and Amy Leach's Things That Are. The first time I read each of these latter collections, I read for substance. This time I'm going to focus on craft, like learning the craft of splitting logs.
for Maxine Kumin
A cylinder of mapleset in place, feet spread apart—and the heavy maul, fat as a hammerbut honed like an axe, drawsa semicircle overhead and strikesthrough the two new halvesto leave the steel head sunka half-inch in the block and the ashhandle rigid in the air.A smack of the palm, gripping as it hitsthe butt end, and the bladerolls out of the cut. The half-logsare still rocking on the flagstones.
So much less than what we have beenpersuaded to dream, this necessity for woodmight have sufficed, but it is whatwe have been taught to disown and forget.Yet just such hardship is what saves.For if the stacked cordsspeak of felled trees, of countlessfive-foot logs flipped end over end downhilltill the blood is wrung from your backand snowbound warmth must seemso far off you would rather freeze,
yet each thin tongue torn from the grainwhen log-halves were sundered at one strokewill sing in the stove.To remind you of hands. Of howmere touch is song in the silencewhere hands live—the song of muddy bark,the song of sawdust like cornmeal and down,and the song of one hand over another,two of us holding the last length of the login the sawbuck as inches away the chainsawkeeps ripping through hickory.
Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.