OPW, poetry

OPW: “Snow, Aldo”

Since it’s been warm outside recently (at least where I live), what better time is there for a poem about snow? This fun little poem, “Snow, Aldo,” is by Kate DeCamillo.

Once, I was in New York,
in Central Park, and I saw
an old man in a black overcoat walking
a black dog. This was springtime
and the trees were still
bare and the sky was
gray and low and it began, suddenly,
to snow:
big fat flakes
that twirled and landed on the
black of the man’s overcoat and
the black dog’s fur. The dog
lifted his face and stared
up at the sky. The man looked
up, too. “Snow, Aldo,” he said to the dog,
“snow.” And he laughed.
The dog looked
at him and wagged his tail.

If I was in charge of making
snow globes, this is what I would put inside:
the old man in the black overcoat,
the black dog,
two friends with their faces turned up to the sky
as if they were receiving a blessing,
as if they were being blessed together
by something
as simple as snow
in March.

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ruminations

If You Get the Chance…

Ctd 2005Snow on Chain Link

If you get the chance, be sure to watch the snow falling on a mid-March evening. It may be unexpected, and it may be delaying the spring you’ve been anticipating. You should still make sure that you look out the window as the sun you haven’t seen all day sets. Be sure to notice how you can make out the pink even when you can’t make out the sun.

Be sure to look out at the still-falling snow on a mid-March night. As the street lamp and the everywhere-white of the weather makes it far lighter than it should be. Don’t be bitter about the street light, without it you couldn’t see the sight nearly so well.

Be sure to sleep late the next morning and imagine that the snow’s a foot thick. You don’t know what it will be like when you look out the window, so be sure to savor the possibility that nature has impressed you as you huddle under the covers and enjoy the accumulated warmth. Be sure, too, to appreciate that warmth. There’s no telling how hot or cold the floor of the kitchen will be when your still-bare feet hit it in a few minutes.

Be sure to avoid going outside as long as you can. And make sure that while you do so you imagine it being inhospitably cold, like the South Pole. This illusion will make the extremely temperate 34°F feel nearly balmy when you do finally have to go out.

And do be sure to go out. It’s a highly under-rated thing, trudging through a small accumulation of snow and enjoying the winter wonderland that materialized outside your window overnight.

Be sure to take some time to watch melting snow fall off a chain-link fence. It may sound about as exciting as paint drying, but it’s abstract art at it’s finest. Without purpose or reason or known creator. Watch the odd patterns that seem to drive the random size and position of the chunks as they fall. Puzzle if there’s a reason for that, or anything else.

Be sure to notice how unremarkable it is to be back inside. Notice how that unremarkableness differentiates a March snowstorm from a January snowstorm.

And finally, be sure to watch through the afternoon as the winter wonderland melts away. How quickly it goes in the March weather. How thorough the illusion was that morning, how absent it was by the evening. Consider what, if anything, this means to your and your life.

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OPW, poetry

OPW: “The Future”

Today on Other People’s Words, a beautiful poem by Wesley McNair called “The Future.”

On the afternoon talk shows of America
the guests have suffered life’s sorrows
long enough. All they require now
is the opportunity for closure,
to put the whole thing behind them
and get on with their lives. That their lives,
in fact, are getting on with them even
as they announce their requirement
is written on the faces of the younger ones
wrinkling their brows, and the skin
of their elders collecting just under their
set chins. It’s not easy to escape the past,
but who wouldn’t want to live in a future
where the worst has already happened
and Americans can finally relax after daring
to demand a different way? For the rest of us,
the future, barring variations, turns out
to be not so different from the present
where we have always lived—the same
struggle of wishes and losses, and hope,
that old lieutenant, picking us up
every so often to dust us off and adjust
our helmets. Adjustment, for that matter,
may be the one lesson hope has to give,
serving us best when we begin to find
what we didn’t know we wanted in what
the future brings. Nobody would have asked
for the ice storm that takes down trees
and knocks the power out, leaving nothing
but two buckets of snow melting
on the wood stove and candlelight so weak,
the old man sitting at the kitchen table
can hardly see to play cards. Yet how else
but by the old woman’s laughter
when he mistakes a jack for a queen
would he look at her face in the half-light as if
for the first time while the kitchen around them
and the very cards he holds in his hands
disappear? In the deep moment of his looking
and her looking back, there is no future,
only right now, all, anyway, each one of us
has ever had, and all the two of them,
sitting together in the dark among the cracked
notes of the snow thawing beside them
on the stove, right now will ever need.

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personal, ruminations

How To Spend a Do-Nothing Day

Sarah MurrayDoing Nothing - Rain

It’s not as easy as it sounds, doing nothing. It’s too easy to think of all that you could be doing. All that you should be doing. In a country that seems to possess a cultural bias against stillness, doing nothing can feel dangerous. Immoral even.

It will also help, if you want to do nothing all day, to have nothing to do that day. No obligations of any kind. No work that needs doing. No driveway that needs shoveling. No social commitments that need attending. Not even phone calls that need to be made.

All prepared? Good.

Now wake up late, but not too late. 9AM is a reasonable time, 11AM is essentially too late, 1PM and you’ve already wasted your nothing day.

Then eat breakfast, preferably something that requires little work and creates little mess. Cereals–both hot and cold–are probably the best choice.

Should a dog need to be walked after the meal, ignore him for at least 15 minutes. And then, when you’ve rested from the exhausting effort of breakfast, take him. Not for too long, mind you. And not if it’s too cold.

Then, and only then, do you really want it to snow. If it’s the wrong time and place for that, rain would certainly suffice. Strong wind could work too. Anything that makes it unappealing to go outside.

Then put on some comfortable inside clothes. Get to a comfortable inside place. And do comfortable inside things. Reading, watching, listening. Baking, playing, organizing. Whatever it is that you like to do, do it. And do it a lot. You’ve got a whole day ahead of you. Don’t waste it on anything that needs doing, nor anything should be done. This is a day for things that could easily go without doing for years. Lifetimes even.

When meal times roll around, it’s imperative that you find food in the refrigerator. Knives are allowed but discouraged. Cooking by any method but the microwave is frowned upon.

Pretty soon, if you’ve done all this right, it’ll be late. Past-my-bedtime late. And you’ll sit up and wonder where the day went. But as you crawl into bed, be happy that you did it. You spent the day doing nothing.

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personal, review

Review: A Week of Colorado Weather

Outside my window, the rarely-trafficked street is still white, only the manhole cover that managed to melt through gives a hint that there’s anything not white under there. The gray sidewalks–which must be shoveled both as a courtesy to fellow pedestrians and out of fear for the law–form a coherent border between the white over grass and the white over blacktop.

It snowed, off and on, for three consecutive days. The total accumulation on grass is almost certainly less than six inches–a somewhat high but not unexpected total for the areas of Colorado where people live. Many non-locals mistake Colorado’s ski areas for the “front range” where the vast majority of it’s people live. They’re surprised by the news that this snow will likely have vanished without a trace by next Monday.

But if Colorado’s weather is nothing else, it’s variable. There’s a running joke–however unfunny–among locals that Colorado’s the only place you’ll need hat and gloves in the morning, shorts at lunch, and a rain slicker by dinner. Though such a day has never occurred in my memory, this week does show the origins of the lie.

Six days ago, I stepped outside to walk the dog. I was expecting weather as it had been–about 45 and a tad too windy–instead my first thought was “this is awfully nice weather for October,”–65, sunny, only a slight breeze. Upon realizing that we’d recently entered the month of December, I was stunned and ecstatic with my good fortune.

By that evening, with the weathermen telling us that snow would soon fall, there was little surprise. This was Colorado, after all, and the weather had changed dramatically from my shorts-envying noon-time walk. It was again around 40 and windy, as sure a sign as any that the weathermen we’re completely wrong.

Nonetheless, I was modestly shocked waking to a light dusting of snow last Thursday. Such weather had certainly been predicted, but Colorado’s meteorologists are fond of saying that their’s is a very difficult job.

Today, the view outside of my window could be called–a little generously–a winter wonderland. We’ve got the extra-brightness engendered by snow that skiers know so well. Last Monday, I probably would have seen a cool dry Colorado winter, a little dispassionate gray in the sky. And I’m happy to report that I don’t have any idea what next Monday will bring.

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