Saturday, January 23, 2016

First Snowstorm: 2015-2016 Winter

Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag wavering to and fro
Crossed and recrossed the winged snow:
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.
-- John Greenleaf Whittier, Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl (1866), lines 31-40.

Last Sunday was our first snowfall, and today we most definitely have been hit with our first snowstorm of the season. As of yesterday they were saying possibly 8-10 inches. The latest estimate is now 24-28 inches, but it is slowing down now. I went out for a walk a few hours ago and it was blizzard-like; I was walking in snow drifts up to my knees. I actually found it exhilarating and couldn't stop laughing, although after walking around for a few blocks I was super cold and wet, and headed back inside. The picture you see here I took this afternoon from AA's loft window in Jersey City, where we have been hunkered down and he has been dealing with a cold.

The quotation of poetry above, however, has been a personal touch to my day. I recently rediscovered on my bookshelf an 1898 edition of the poetry of Whittier, a book I long have treasured because it belonged to my Nana when she was in elementary school in 1915. Her name is written in her hand on the inside cover. Ages ago, I had read Whittier's poem when I was in school, and it has remained one of my favorite American poems. Having grown up in NY/NJ, snow has always been part of my life, and I find the descriptions of the snowstorm to be so beautifully written. But even more rewarding are Whittier's poetic memories of his family members, each of whom he describes recounting their own past lives, all while a snowstorm brews outside. The literary layering of Whittier in the 1860s writing a poem to his niece that recounts his own memories of his family (and visiting guests), who entertain one another with stories of their own lives, makes this poem a heart-warming paean to history, family, narrativity, and how nature has the power to remind us of our connection to the earth and the seasons. If you haven't read this poem before, I highly recommend it. To learn more about Whittier and the history of the poem, click here.

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