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Winter is a long season here in the hills to the east of Lake Erie. It sometimes starts in October and lasts until May, but it always takes all of December and January and February, filling the shortest days and then the lengthening days with cold and snow. It gives me time to consider the season.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 6, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
swings around to the north and dried leaves left on the little maple rattle with the chill. Bright days and crisp nights lead us to the solstice and promises of flurries decorate our minds.
Crack the Whip
December rain falls chill temperatures rise fall, rise ice threatens snow comes, turns to rain goes over to snow the jet stream snaking, playing crack the whip
clothe the evening sky quilted by small flights of late season geese, new snow hangs heavy in the cedar break and small birds stitch down the drifts under willow and pear tree. December settles into itself heavy on atmosphere, and unapologetic.
Our world is busy disappearing into a snow storm, house and barn become ships in a white sea. A gust takes us far from where we know we still ride the sweep of the west wind on an anchor of inland hill. In this moment we taste the wildness.
The house becomes my skin, I shrug from room to room a chameleon slipping one color aside for the next. Losing track of where I started, looking for lost notebooks finding scraps of poems leggy and straggling like seedlings yearning for the sun, I pause for a moment to consider them but move on, restless as a caged cat, hungry for wilderness and winter stars.
The calligraphy of tree shadows across morning snow tells old stories, new each day.
January’s thaw washes over us ebb and flow of rising temperatures mixed precipitation a week and a half of false hopes disappearing in ribbons of snow, rippling out in a bitter north wind.
The moon, one night from full and a hand of clouds amid the stars holds the night, calling the girl I was, standing by a frozen pond watching moonlight lay a path across the snow. My axe broke ice and slid it out, the moon dazzled in dark water and the heifers moved around me hesitant to drink the glimmer. I watched the moon, yearned to drop the axe and walk the gleaming path.
Tonight, I stand behind window glass, feel the cold that called me then knot my joints, and send me shivering away from the path still waiting on the snow.
calls from the dogwood then the sourwood and back wonders why I’m so late abed, sun rising in a mist of ice the farm a crystal bowl.
It is winter, and I eat like a bird a small bird, say a chickadee who eats her weight each day, fluttering in absurd antics to get at the feeder, to beat the jays and doves, grab a beak full and split. She perches on a pear branch, ruffles up, chatters about the unfairness of it, flits back in. Watching, I fill my teacup amble to the cracker keeper with those ancient freshness crystals my grandmother trusted to keep the staleness out and close the crispness in like a hidden treasure. With a mouthful of crumbs, I remember my childhood. It didn’t work then, either
Yesterday, the golden crescent of an old moon woke me, bright above the horizon an hour before the sun, but while I looked for it today, thinking I should catch its gleam just before sun up, it wasn’t there, losing itself instead in the brightness of February’s icy flare. For two days now, it will ride the day leaving the chill stars to glitter brighter in their ways, as winter stars are wont, and we will wait for it to choose first dusk, then dark.
All poems copyrighted property of Kathleen M. Tenpas and used with permission
All photos property of Kathleen M. Tenpas and used with permission
About Kathleen M. Tenpas
We have a grazing dairy of 55 cows in the rolling hills of western New York State where we raised two daughters who have now blessed us with four grandchildren. I have messy, jungly beds of old roses, (some real antiques left by former owners), perennials, wildflowers and lots and lots of not so ornamental grasses! I have a Masters degree in Creative Writing: Poetry from Antioch University. I am a photographer and fabric artist and I bake a mean loaf of bread.