If you have seen the snow
under the lamppost
piled up like a white beaver hat on the picnic table
or somewhere slowly falling
into the brook
to be swallowed by water,
then you have seen beauty
and know it for its transience.
And if you have gone out in the snow
for only the pleasure
of walking barely protected
from the galaxies,
the flakes settling on your parka
like the dust from just-born stars,
the cold waking you
as if from long sleeping,
then you can understand
how, more often than not,
truth is found in silence,
how the natural world comes to you
if you go out to meet it,
its icy ditches filled with dead weeds,
its vacant birdhouses, and dens
full of the sleeping.
But this is the slowed down season
held fast by darkness
and if no one comes to keep you company
then keep watch over your own solitude.
In that stillness, you will learn
with your whole body
the significance of cold
and the night,
which is otherwise always eluding you.
Too often we miss appreciating the grace of winter, preoccupied as we may be with the bitterness of the cold air, the inconvenience of the snow that needs to be shoveled, the short days and early darkness. Yet Fargnoli, a New England poet who would have been well acquainted with deep snow winters, tells us that snow piled up like a white beaver hat and swallowed by water in the brook shows us beauty and lets us know it for its transience; it will not last.
And if we have gone walking with the flakes settling on your parka / like the dust from just-born stars we have the opportunity for pleasure – I’m entranced by the imagery of snow flakes as star dust! Then, she says, more often than not, / truth is found in silence; if you go walking in winter snow, how the natural world comes to you – dead weeds, vacant birdhouses, dens / full of the sleeping, all this will meet us.
What she wants us to remember is that this is the slowed down season / held fast by darkness and you must keep watch over your own solitude. She is asking us to pay attention to the significance of cold / and the night, to feel it with our whole body. Otherwise, we hurry past that stillness, those moments of awareness of our being in this beautiful, transient world, in the grace of winter.