Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wyoming winter?

This morning, as I walked around the park behind my home, I watched one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever seen. Liquid fire streamed over the Wasatch mountains to torch the bottoms of blue-grey cotton ball clouds with an electric red-orange, changing to apricot, to peach, then fading back to grey like a rod of iron heated nearly white-hot in a forge, then slowly cooled. I was in awe, grateful that my morning exercise had coincided with such splendor.
This afternoon one of my sons and I stood outside in shirt sleeves. At that point it was still a lovely day—nearly clear blue skies, moderate breezes, and sunshine—mood music courtesy of the waterfall in my backyard pond.
Tonight the wind, no longer friendly, has adopted a decided chill. Cold shoulder clouds are streaming down from the Arctic, bringing what I consider complete anathema. . .snow. Tomorrow I’ll be shoveling. 


And the forecast says there’s no visible end in sight. 

What is descending upon us reminds me of a poem I penned, years ago, on a cold, windy, snow-driven winter’s day. It expresses my feelings about the season as well as the hope that sees me through.


Wyoming winter stretches on
Through evening grey and muted dawn—
A fierce, forbidding winterscape
Of ice and snow and wind, to shape
A bleak and barren emptiness
That shrouds the spirit with finesse.
Each dreary day of somber hue
Demands depression as its due,
Extracting energy and cheer
Until the spirit is as drear
And lifeless as the blowing snows
That sift and drift in endless rows.

But when all life seems at its ebb,
Forever tangled in that web
Of desolation, dark and drear,
A chick-a-dee pipes up, “Spring’s here!”
And, suddenly, the crushing jaw
Of winter’s endless, gaping maw
Is closed. And joyous in its stead,
A glorious springtime rears its head.
The dawn, so muted yesterday,
Bursts gaily on the world to say
In colors, vibrant, ‘cross the sky,
“Arise and live again! Spring’s nigh!”

A note on that poem….
I entered it in the recent League of Utah Writer’s contest for rhymed poetry. And won second place. Hmmm. Either there were only two of us entering or the competition wasn’t very versatile with rhymed poetry.

The critique said I had a ‘big lapse toward sentimentality and overly used phrasing’. The judge was 'troubled' with "desolation, dark and drear" and the piping chick-a-dee wasn’t 'a strength' unless I was 'paying some kind of clear homage or tribute to Wordsworth and Percy Shelley'. He wants to see me use my skills 'more in service to the 21st century rather than the 19th'.

Right. That ain’t gonna happen. I tend to become very impatient with most 21st century poetry. Enough said.

However, it was an interesting critique.

Was I paying homage to Wordsworth and Shelley? Not purposefully. But I couldn’t be more honored than to have someone think of their poetry when reading mine. They were masters. I, on the other hand, write poetry only when flooded with intensely strong feeling. It isn't something I can serve up at a moment's notice - or even on a month's notice.

So I have to laugh over this poem.

I remember the day well. It was a typical Wyoming winter’s day outside my Meeteetse home: filled with seemingly endless wind and snow doing exactly what I described—shaping a bleak and barren emptiness. Such weather does shroud my spirit. It kills my creativity and my joy, leaving me battling Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder. And to make that particular day even more enjoyable, I was fighting something I seldom experience, a numbing migraine headache.

Was I paying tribute to Wordsworth and Shelley? Not really. Those words expressed, completely, how I felt about the winterscape outside my window. They also expressed how I longed to hear the harbinger of spring—a chick-a-dee singing his cheery “spring’s here” notes; how I longed to see a glorious, vibrant springtime dawn.

Which brings me back to this morning. Was today’s dawn spring-like? Not even close. The underlying gunmetal grey of the clouds provided a starkly cold contrast to the liquid fire streaking across the sky. Although I reveled in its beauty, it held no promise of warmth to come. Even the lovely weather at mid-day was nothing more than an unusual phenomenon to be enjoyed in its brief season. 
I did enjoy it. 
And now it’s gone.

I think I need a strong dose of chocolate.