Snow: The Poetry & Politics of Praising It

snow

Be careful what you wish for, the saying goes. Was it only a week ago, March 7th, that I posted a poetic paean to snow called “March Snow”?

Yes, I waxed poetic about how innocent March snow was, how wet and transient, how beautiful in that it inevitably signaled Old Man Winter’s death throes.

Are snow storms any reason to stop by woods (to write a poem) on a snowy evening? Or is that strictly the province of a man appropriately named “Frost”?

Last week’s storm turned out to be a nor’easter that knocked our power out for 13 hours. And we were one of the lucky ones. Many surrounding Massachusetts towns were without power for days. In the cold. (Or shall we say, with the cold mousing its way in?)

Schools were closed for two days — Day One because of the snow, and Day Two because of the widespread power outages and downed tree limbs littering impassable side roads.

Yes, pretty March snow is dense with moisture. The kind that weighs on the minds of birch and white pine limbs, especially.

Yesterday, another nor’easter blew through, bringing us 20 inches more of the lovely March Snow. School was cancelled anew. Electrical power blinked off, on, off for good in many homes. And this morning I’ve learned schools will be closed a second day for the second time in two weeks. Four days lost, just like that, to the drifting beauty that is March Snow.

Be careful what you wish for, the saying goes.

And how naive can a poet get, writing rhapsodic about the beauty of snow at the end of its season? Everyone says it’s a pain, a plague, a plight to be endured. Why then, am I thinking “muse”?

It’s an outrage, I guess. I had a small collection of villagers with pitchforks and torches outside my home last night shouting and calling me out. My post brought on these two nor’easters, you see. Jinxed us but good. Must be!

But really, I’m here to stand by my post. These storms are no less beautiful because they take away our games and diversions. No lights, no internet, no TV. Granted, no heat is a more serious matter, but our forefathers (and not just four of them) would seriously wonder what we’ve come to if we no longer prepare for the unexpected. Why, they’d ask, would we live in New England without the back-up peace of mind that’s called a wood-burning stove or a pellet stove?

“Weather happens,” as they used to say in colonial times. “Now let’s write a poem. By candlelight.”

ENVOY:

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
by Robert Frost (a man without a pitchfork or torch)

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.


My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.


He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.


The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

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