Friday, December 11, 2009

Heavy Snow

Heavy snow, followed by bitter cold. Two days ago, a heavy blizzard, leaving us with over a foot of heavy snow. The land is white and beautiful, although I worry about the trees. Broken branches falling off trees took out the electricity for several homes in my county. People seem stunned that the winters are getting more snow-filled, more cold, more powerful these past three years; but they need to remember that for the preceding decade-plus there has been a winter drought here in the Upper Midwest.

This heavy snow is actually a return to what was more typical, years ago. Between the heavy rains and heavy snows these past three years, despite the damage from floods in summer and the power lines coming down during this latest blizzard, it's good for the land. It's good for the crops, come spring, with more water in the soil; and the vast aquifers of the Midwest, heavily depleted by a century of overfarming, are gradually being refilled.

Just after the storm, I went out to knock some snow off the trees out back. I’m worried they’ll break from the weight of this heavy snow, they’re bent almost all the way to the ground. They did rebound a little, after my attentions, but there is still a lot of ice coating their upper branches, and they remain bowed. There are trees down, and branches fallen everywhere in the woods by the river.

The city snowplow has managed to create an ice-hard two-foot high berm at the foot of my driveway, thank you very much, which I don’t have the physical strength to remove, so I’m going exactly nowhere today.

During the last part of the storm, before the Arctic bitter cold set in, I went out for an hour with the camera, down to the river and back, and a small distance into the woods and back. I’m too tired from being ill to do much more than that. I got some excellent photos—perfect for this year’s Xmas card to design and send out soon. It was mostly me out there, with a little light traffic.

Only one other walker came through. And an insane jogger passed me on the icy road, there’s no accounting for those folks. I remember the time years ago Dad told me, when he was still working as a doctor at the UM health service in Ann Arbor, about treating a guy who had been jogging in the cold of winter wearing only light running shorts and not enough layers: Dad had to treat him for frostbite of the penis.

Down in the woods by the river, of course, pastoral Robert Frost poems were going through my head. I’ve come to realize that Frost celebrated the domesticated wild, not the actual wild: his winter woods were near the village, his forked trails were in the New England woods, not far from town. His wilds were tame, New England wilds, rough for all that, but near lands where folk have lived for centuries. This realization about Frost makes me think of Robert Bly’s formulation of American poetry being about wildness and domesticity as its two poles of attraction: Frost circled those poles, although most of his poems about nature and the wilderness were really set in pastures and farmed lands, and rivers near habitation.

Frost was not referring to Nevada or Wyoming, or New Mexico; he was referring to New England. For all his excesses and overwritten passages, D.H. Lawrence’s poetry is wilder; and he lived for a time above Taos, NM, on the side of an inaccessible mountain above an arid mesa, miles from town. Walt Whitman’s poems remain much wilder than Frost’s, even now. I love many Frost poems, yet I cannot forget that his blizzards were contained within snow-globes, not experienced as white-outs in the Bighorn Range straddling Montana and Wyoming. My own terrain of the northern Midwest contains more open space and raw wilderness than Frost ever wrote about, except metaphorically, or theoretically. So, as much as I love many Frost poems, I seek wilder poetry.

On the other hand, I do believe that Frost’s real wildness was in his dark poems of domestic tragedy, such as Home Burial: the wildness of life within a dark room of death, of hauntings, of marriages gone wrong and the deaths of children. Frost at his darkest does contain genuine duende, and the dark night: but Frost remains focused on human relationships, not on the land and sea and sky, the true wilderness.

The light is failing now, and I’ve turned on the treelights. I went out again and tried to knock more ice and snow off the trees out back; I hope it’s enough to save them, in the coming cold and wind. I hope that they don’t break and crack like those other trees I saw when I was out walking with the camera. I want my trees to live, to be well. The heavy snow froze on the ends into iceballs, that’s why the trees are bending over.

The neighborhood groundskeeping people came by and removed the berms from our driveways that the city plows had left, so I’m no longer trapped, which is good. I hate feeling trapped. But now as the light fails, it’s beginning to snow again. There is already a powerdered coating on the driveway that was cleaned an hour ago.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

The two photos that stand out for me are the one with the flag and the one with the guy in the orange jacket. Much as I love black and white there is nothing like a touch of colour to make you appreciate it. Not a single flake of snow here yet and I’m not holding my breath. It may not be the warmest out there but don’t let anyone kid you, global warming is making a difference.

4:57 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

the thing that most people continue to misunderstand about global warming is that it doesn't mean that everything gets gradually warmer. It means that with the baseline temperature increase, there is more energy in the system: which means that things get more dramatic, more violent, that the highs are higher and the lows are lower, that storms become more violent, and climate patterns shift from predictable to severe. It increases the amplitude of the system. Most folks have no idea what that really means, apparently.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Then count me in as 'most people'.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Too late. That horse already left the barn, and "most people" is one thing you're not. :)

5:32 PM  

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