Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hoarfrosting on Winter's cake

Today we're trying a new bread recipe: Vermont cheddar loaf. The dough has been mixed and now is rising. We're hoping it will go well with the leftover ham and bean soup we're reheating this evening. One of the best things I can say about the weather we've been having is that it provides encouragement to fix soups, stews and homemade breads. Of course, some of us would feel just as encouraged if the temperatures bottomed out in the 20s instead of below zero. You know how it is: too much of a "good thing."

horses and hoarfrost
horses and hoarfrost
Photo by J. Harrington

Since we're supposed to have a January thaw in about a week, I'm hoping that the air will get supersaturated and the temperature below freezing so we can enjoy some hoar frost. I think it's one of the most beautiful parts of a Minnesota winter, particularly when there are horses in the scene. Bread, soup, January thaw, beauty: life during a Minnesota Winter can be good.

Horses in Snow

By Roberta Hill 
They are a gift I have wanted again.
Wanted: One moment in mountains
when winter got so cold
the oil froze before it could burn.
I chopped ferns of hoarfrost from all the windows   
and peered up at pines, a wedding cake
by a baker gone mad. Swirls by the thousand   
shimmered above me until a cloud
lumbered over a ridge,
bringing the heavier white of more flurries.

I believed, I believed, I believed
it would last, that when you went out
to test the black ice or to dig out a Volkswagon   
filled with rich women, you’d return
and we’d sputter like oil,
match after match, warm in the making.
Wisconsin’s flat farmland never approved:
I hid in cornfields far into October,
listening to music that whirled from my thumbprint.   
When sunset played havoc with bright leaves of alders,

I never mentioned longing or fear.
I crouched like a good refugee in brown creeks
and forgot why Autumn is harder than Spring.   
But snug on the western slope of that mountain   
I’d accept every terror, break open seals
to release love’s headwaters to unhurried sunlight.   
Weren’t we Big Hearts? Through some trick of silver   
we held one another, believing each motion the real one,   
ah, lover, why were dark sources bundled up
in our eyes? Each owned an agate,

marbled with anguish, a heart or its echo,   
we hardly knew. Lips touching lips,   
did that break my horizon
as much as those horses broke my belief?   
You drove off and I walked the old road,   
scolding the doubles that wanted so much.
The chestnut mare whinnied a cloud into scrub pine.   
In a windless corner of a corral,
four horses fit like puzzle pieces.
Their dark eyes and lashes defined by the white.

The colt kicked his hind, loped from the fence.   
The mares and a stallion galloped behind,   
lifting and leaping, finding each other
in full accord with the earth and their bodies.   
No harm ever touched them once they cut loose,   
snorting at flurries falling again.
How little our chances for feeling ourselves.   
They vanished so quickly—one flick of a tail.   
Where do their mountains and moments begin?   
I stood a long time in sharpening wind. 


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