Winter in All Its Glorious Forms

I have not written in December because I’ve been outside in the woods, through temperatures high and low, winds calm and raucous, days shortening and, just recently, beginning again to grow. That intoxicating slant of winter light drags me outside before I’ve even finished my first cup of tea and again in the afternoon when I should be staying glued to my screen for another hour. Recently, there was a cold spell. A period of below freezing temperatures for several days in a row, unlike we’d experienced for many years, it seems. I did my best to thaw the birdbaths a couple times a day to save the birds from having to fly to the creek to drink (knowing they had to conserve energy), and I put birdseed out in more places and types of feeders than ever before. And, of course, the goats had to be fed twice daily instead of once, have warm water added to their plug-in buckets (which keep water just above freezing, but not warm enough to entice them to avoid dehydration), as they munched through the hay in their net and racks at three times the usual rate. The extra outdoor work was worth it, though, for the chance to see ice art at the creeks! No way can I stay inside long enough to do any decent writing, so I’ve posted these photos (I’m too entranced by the woods, though, to even photograph anything properly..); and I’ll insert a poem from a few years back, though it requires a windy day and large white pines to picture it, something I don’t have in my photo gallery, sadly. So just imagine. Wind and the White Pine Tree It’s just another one of those days, another one of those windy days like so many others you’ve stood through. And so you just trust to your internal structure, to the joinings with neighbors below and above ground, and ride out the whims of the wind. Perhaps all will calm and you’ll still be standing, mostly whole and able to grow on. It’s in your DNA: this knowing what to do, what you can do, and when to do nothing. But there’s more to it than that. What I see is your motion inside the wind: your branches dance, along with the other trees’ branches powered by invisible air, and grace comes from how you bend to… Continue reading


Winter days when the temperatures stays below 32 degrees have become exceedingly rare in my Virginia home, so when I wake up and see frost sparkling outside of my bedroom’s ground-level window, I make haste to get outside. Frozen only until the rising sun lifts the temperature, frost is fleeting; made of crystal structures so small it’s hard to see them without a magnifier, its beauty is intricate, delicate. What I like most is how it transforms the familiar forms of moss, dead leaves, twigs ends and fence wire into a particular kind of beauty, the kind of art only frozen water has the power to create. No matter how often I witness it transform my world, frost always strikes me as an original and unrepeatable event. Continue reading

Flower Ghosts

I woke up and heard the wind still hassling the trees, and I wondered about frost. Before bedtime I’d decided not to cover the clematis, despite its purple flowers being those of its first ever fall bloom (it’s a spring flower by nature, or was); nor would I save the nasturtium, the salvia, or the balsam. I’d picked the few zinnia blooms worth keeping. Salvia before the frost… I had once been in the habit of throwing blankets, row cover, plastic table cloths, whatever I could find over swaths of plants to protect them from the first frost or maybe even two or three frosts; it had been a ritual during the many years I labored to have a garden where flowers were still showy and plentiful by the time the cold arrived. I’m less likely to hold on now, more likely to let nature be nature, however oddly she wants to behave these days.   But then I remembered the amaryllis in its large pot, still sitting on the patio bench. If I put it in the basement (as usual), after a month of dormancy, it could come to the living room and resurrect itself in one or two huge gaudy blooms in February. It would do that, if I kept it alive tonight. I dragged myself out of bed and into my boots, coat, and hat. I picked up the heavy pot and put it just inside the front door. Then I walked outside again. The moonlight made the wind’s antics visible in the tall trees surrounding the house, and I walked past the tender plants as they swayed, hovered quietly on the edge of freeze-burning to death. My soft goodbyes were lost inside the sound of wind whirring through the remaining leaves on the large oaks by the garden and whooshing through the wall of pines to the north. Most of the blooms I could see were salvia’s. Diffused by clouds, the moon’s light wasn’t enough for me to discern the color enough to tell if they were alive or dead. I know the greens turn brown first and only after that will the bright red-orange flowers shrink into the color of dried blood. I could have gone inside for a flashlight, but I went back to bed instead, recognizing the familiar discomfort of that first frost feeling: relief that the growing season’s work is done and… Continue reading