Mar. 5th, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Odd winter. Only just lately getting enough snow in these Maine mountains to make shoeing worthwhile. My trek begins here, on a steep but defined path.
Allen was gone for the day to the coast. I worked around the desk and house and then decided to tackle that steep slope above our place. But who was doing the tackling?—me or the mountain?
Ravens called to one another alerting of my presence in the woods below. Were they taking verbal notes on my great webbed feet, the poles in my hands as I hauled ass upwards toward them? In those precarious places where angling the slight downward-and-across — prudent to elude some fallen tangles, those lengthy limbs and dead trunks—I felt like Olive Oil with her big feet flapping, her long awkward stride—Oh Popeye!
But mostly I aimed for the uphill, the handhold, the great tree-rest, the miracle of just going up instead of sliding, tumbling backwards, possibly becoming one of those tangles myself. It was a miracle, each body length upward victory, a prayer of thanksgiving … with the next reach transmuting the prayer to one of help. Help me get up this slide here, this extra-steep, this possible knee buster, hip shambler, shoulder dislocator.
Up up up. Up past the old bear den, and the ever unexpected ledge behind the neighbors’. Every time I see that ledge my thoughts recede in disappointment. Always seems it should be either higher or lower. Not right exactly where somehow I have to get around through some form of great exertion. Ice-ridden, snow encrusted implacable rockface. Brr.
Got to get past that. Please. Past.
That means going higher… and behind—over. And through all the tangle, that jutting deadfall. There was an old settlers’ track up there. Always before. If I could find that now!
Is a snowflake as a poem in another form? Would it be better to ask… is poetry snow falling in another form? True poetry is, of course, some form accreted of words, carefully worked. Wendell Berry even makes a good case for “free” poetic forms being… well, forms. He does this by using likeness to the organic.
He says, in his essay “Poetry and Marriage,” that the “term ‘organic,’ when applied to free or ‘open’ poetic forms, should alert us to the nature of all forms.” (My emphasis.) Because, “the organic forms of nature, like the ballad stanza or the stanza of Spencer are principles that are repeatable and recognizable through a series of variations.”
Even dust is filled with pattern, especially when the aided eye sees down into its structure—and how much more so on the atomic level? To atomize something is to destroy its structure, but even structure itself (of those constituents) is not destroyed in so doing. How much more the melting of a snowflake? All its carefully accreted beauty will have disappeared into some other form.
There is some mighty working going on here. We won’t let the cynic, the mindset as false as sentimentalism, distract us from our true work: our thinking about this might, this mighty workmanship, of God.
But I have loved the romance of snow. The gentle down pouring, sifting of cold flakes formed with care in the particular atmosphere. These things can be studied and much meditated upon, with loving abstraction, the gaze going outward through snowy twilight as all things visible disappear into it.
—However! I must locate that old settlers trail before the twilight comes down on me. Maybe sundering me from Allen through mishap in these tangles and snags—but here it is! And now here is the view! Up above the neighborhood. Up above the troublesome ledge.