The peace of snow

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Time for a walk! So urged my body. Hauling myself off the couch, I donned coat, boots, hat and mitts, and stepped outside into the cold fresh air. Pellet-like rain was falling, undecided whether or not to turn to snow.

Impulse led me to walk up an old tarred trail to a favourite patch of mixed forest: a leisurely spread of maples, oaks and ash framed by steep hills and clustered with large boulders. One of these, covered in snow except for a bare ledge, offered a narrow seat. I half-sat, half-leaned against it. The rain had turned to snow, and the snow was falling in thick flakes.

As my mind quieted, my senses opened. The brown and grey trunks of the trees yawned into the close grey sky. The air smelled new and clean. Snow pattering against the nylon of my coat reminded me, oddly, of the sound of flames licking against firewood. The copper leaves on a beech sapling hung like candles from its branches. Everything seemed blurred and softened by the falling snow.

A great peace descended on me, and it suddenly struck me: this is where I would like to die, here among the trees and the silent rocks, with the snow’s blanket promising some mysterious and miraculous union. Even as my body began to protest the cold, I found it difficult to leave, sitting mindless and content among the trees. Finally I rose and Mary Oliver’s poem, Walking Home from Oak-Head, sang me home.

Walking Home from Oak-Head

There is something
about the snow-laden sky
in winter
in the late afternoon

that brings to the heart elation
and the lovely meaninglessness
of time.
Whenever I get home — whenever —

someone loves me there.
Meanwhile
I stand in the same dark peace
as any pine tree

or wander on slowly
like the still unhurried wind,
waiting,
as for a gift,

for the snow to begin
which it does
at first casually,
then, irrepressibly.

Wherever else I live —
in music, in words,
in the fires of the heart,
I abide just as deeply

in this nameless, indivisible place,
this world,
which is falling apart now,
which is white and wild,

which is faithful beyond all our expressions of faith,
our deepest prayers.
Don’t worry, sooner or later I’ll be home.
Red-cheeked from the roused wind.

I’ll stand in the doorway
stamping my boots and slapping my hands,
my shoulders
covered with stars.

~ Mary Oliver

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Comments

  1. Janice

    February 1, 2020

    Reading this, I sat with you on that ledge Mary Lou ‘with the snow’s blanket promising some mysterious and miraculous union’ – how beautifully you have captured this. Your words speak to ‘the lovely meaninglessness of time’, your choice of poem so perfect. xoxoxoxo

  2. Wendy Sarno

    February 15, 2020

    Oh, what an exquisite winter meditation, Mary Lou, I could feel the conversation of the snow as it fell on the branches, the copper leaves, your jacket. I could feel the cold stone and the peace. And Mary Oliver’s poem the perfect accompaniment.

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