Ode to Snow

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Brighton Ski Resort, Utah

Winter is a time for contemplation. Everything takes a little longer to do. Food must be warmed, layers must be compiled and worn, windshields and sidewalks must be scraped and shoveled of ice and snow.

Whether you are in the midst of knee-deep snow yourself or whether you only dream of it, I invite you to listen to my new snowy playlist on Spotify while indulging in some wintry reading (sources cited) and photography (all by me) below. Enjoy.

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Laramie, Wyoming

“Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.” -From Mark Strand’s “Lines for Winter”

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Southern Wyoming

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.'” -Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

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American Fork, Utah

“Everything is flowing — going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches… While the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like blood… in Nature’s warm heart.” -John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra 

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Steamboat Springs, Colorado

“One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land…” -From Wallace Stevens’s “The Snow Man”

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Centennial, Wyoming

“It snowed all week. Wheels and footsteps moved soundlessly on the street, as if the business of living continued secretly behind a pale but impenetrable curtain. In the falling quiet there was no sky or earth, only snow lifting in the wind, frosting the window glass, chilling the rooms, deadening and hushing the city.” -Truman Capote
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Steamboat Ski Resort, Colorado

“A few feathery flakes are scattered widely through the air, and hover downward with uncertain flight, now almost alighting on the earth, now whirled again aloft into remote regions of the atmosphere.” -Nathaniel Hawthorne
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Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming

Love and warm wishes to all from the wintry American West.

Poem: A Beat Behind

A Beat Behind

AspeninWY

Kant says we are removed from these moments
of our lives and we only know their effect
just as our vision of stars’ light, living on after
their technicolored deaths, is distant from the star
itself, heaving gas and heat, a flame – no, a frame
of light just visible and always a beat behind.
Millennia ago they sang their swan songs.

I’m learning to let myself be in time, in this
very second. Between chimes of the ting-sha
Tolle says that past and future are both illusions;
all we have is now. Kant has said we don’t
even have that so I choose to believe in beauty
over truth, to see echoes of stars and be struck
dumb by their pinpricks through this dark
matter fabric lightyears away, years ago.

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A Beach Meditation

Though my response to the question “beach or mountains?” has invariably been “mountains” since I can remember, (sand is my nemesis – it has no respect for personal space) I must admit that spending several days at Figure Eight Island in North Carolina recently was a much-needed break from the dry, thin air of the Mountain West.

My brother Will woke up early one morning to see the sunrise

My brother Will woke up early one morning to see the sunrise

I live for the moment when, exiting the airport, two automatic sliding glass doors swish out of your way like curtains, parting to deliver you to the realm of humid, hazy summer air. Most travelers at the Raleigh-Durham airport were either walking very quickly to their intended destinations or waiting inside, getting all chummy with baggage claim, while I stood outside on the sidewalk, dreaming of a Cook Out milkshake.

Last year I went to the North Carolina coast to remember my Oma, my grandmother. Her four sons – my dad and three uncles – and my Opa spread her ashes in the ocean. It has been over a year since she passed away. She never met my cousin, who would’ve been her newest grandchild, baby Maxime, who is not yet a year old. We think she bears a strong resemblance to Oma.

Will took this adorable photo of Maxime on the beach

Will took this adorable photo of Maxime on the beach

A house filled to the brim with seventeen family members, all salt-crusted, tanned and sandy and sunscreened, sucking on sweaty soda cans, is a joy.

Beach hair & family

Beach hair & family

Figure Eight Island doesn’t have any public access beaches, so the strand stays relatively empty, dotted by the occasional sand castle, umbrella, swimmer, or fisher. On a few days, I went for walks barefoot in that small strip of land close enough to the tide that the sand stays compact, and footprints wash away behind you.

Photo credit to Libby

Photo credit to Libby

After a few minutes of step after step, I realized how empty the beach truly was. Once I turned around to head back, the wind threw itself at the front of my wide-brimmed straw hat. If I lifted my chin, the wind would catch the brim and toss the whole hat clear off my head and toward the dunes. If I tucked my chin down, the wind pushed up against the brim, pressing it into my nose and almost entirely obscuring my vision. It was like this when I realized I could simply walk forward with my eyes closed for minutes at a time. I can’t think of any other setting in the world in which this would be possible.

Occasionally I’d step on a shattered shell or a larger wave would catch my ankles by cold surprise, but mostly it was full minutes of waves, ocean rush, wind, sand beneath my feet, and nothing else. How peaceful to walk, completely trusting in the landscape and the strength of my legs, no background noise but breeze and sea. One dark step after another, the inner ear pulsing with breath and heartbeat, a walking meditation.

Libby took this photo of Ben on one of his walks

Libby took this photo of Ben on one of his walks

I admire our planet’s ability to hold a singular space for destruction and messy life alongside such transcendent calm- a flat, clean emptiness.