Archive for the ‘Treasures of the Snow’ Category

First snow 11-13 again

Many of us carry an eternal kid around with us, deep inside.  I know I do.  That’s the only possible explanation for my sense of euphoria today, when I saw what was drifting down out of the sky and landing in my precious little patio garden.

Come January, I begin to dislike the stuff.  By February it gets really old, and being a Wisconsin native I know that it may not end soon.  By March?  Well March is rectified by the returning sun—so glorious as it pours into our east facing patio door.  But the snow may seem interminable by then, and sometimes in March I want to scream!

So why the excitement every year, my 80th being no exception?  Today I walked out to take photos, and the brisk, damp air instantly took me back to 1943 when I couldn’t get enough of snowy days and those waning daylight hours after school when we kids stayed outdoors building forts and snow creatures.

No matter how tedious the early weeks of each new year may seem, no matter how my heart yearns (sometimes cries) for warm sunlight and green shoots popping up in the garden, no difference how challenged my body may actually be—sometimes to the extent where the days are radically altered, and I all but grind to a proverbial halt.

Despite all of that, I will forever go into an ecstatic spin over early snowfalls at the end of each year.  An Eternal Kid!

Having little people in one’s life provides ongoing nourishment for an Eternal Kid.  My pleasant, secure childhood lives on through a plethora of young people who get excited to see what falls out of the sky.  Being surrounded by rambunctious, smiling children is my best insurance against growing old.  I refuse to grow old!  I praise God for the gift of being an Eternal Kid!

(Even if the snow gets a little old come January!)

Margaret L. Been, 2013

NOTE:  Here is one more (new-this-year) reason for being excited about the snow.  Our youngest grandchild, Adetokunba Bridget Josephine Adesokun, is experiencing her very first snow today!


Since our little one has a very long name, we call her “Tuks” (rhymes with “Books”).  That’s a short form of her Nigerian name, Adetokunba.  And as you can see, Tuks is currently into blowing bubbles.

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At last, winter has dumped its trademark on our Northern land.  The world around our country condo and quiet park is heaped in the quiet beauty of winter.  Our little patio is heaped.  I love the charming top hats on the bird feeder and saxophone-playing frog—leaning against the feeder as if he were a bit inebriated.  Against the patio door you will see a five dollar poinsettia plant (fake of course) wearing a dusting of snow.  Soon the Christmas plant will be replaced by other fake blooms, until next December.

Now our local ski trials are being groomed for the cross country crowd.  “Downhillers” who long ago exhausted the limited thrills of Midwest runs will throng into airports and board for the high country.  I no longer ski, and I never was intrepid in the high country, although the Colorado Rockies are like a second home and I love to experience their beauty in any season.  While the rest of my family skiied in Colorado, my favorite sport was just sitting outside the lodge in that glorious Western sun and clear, dry air—while savoring a natural Rocky Mountain High.  But there is another winter sport that, in my mind, beats all:  the ceremonial indoor change to spring. 

Here is how it goes around the year.  Late every August I stash my Russel Wright IROQUOIS® dishes, Vaseline Glass pieces, and lemon yellow Depression Glass in a cupboard so that we can adorn our dining table and buffet with Carnival Glass pitchers and bowls, and a harvest-motif set of English china decorated with baskets of luscious autumn produce.  In mid-November, the harvest dishes yield to English Transferware in red and white—paired with ruby red Depression Glass.  Sometimes the red dominance remains in view until after Valentine’s Day, but not this year.  As of today, our village of Nashotah boasts 18 minutes more daylight than we had at the winter solstice.  I’m feeling those minutes.  Extra daylight, winter sun on fresh powder, and the joie de vivre have catapulted me into the new year in celebration of the sparkling season on hand and anticipation of glorious days ahead.

So last evening at dusk we made a seasonal change from red transferware and ruby red Depression Glass—to toothpick holders* and other accent pieces of Vaseline Glass, our lemon yellow Depression Glass sugar and creamer, and (once again) the Russel Wright IROQUOIS® Casual China in soft hues of yellow, green, blue, and pink.  Included in the dining table setting (pictured below), is the Prince Albert MOONLIGHT ROSES® teapot which Joe and I brought home from Cornwall in 1993.  A MOONLIGHT ROSES® cup and saucer accompany the teapot. 

The cliché “What goes around comes around” certainly fits!  Joe and I woke up this morning to sparkling snow outside, and a breath of springtime within—thanks to my passion for, and perennial delight in, seasonal ceremonies.

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

Note:  My parents gave me their gorgeous collection of toothpick holders, many of which are very old.  For years at other homes, we kept the entire collection on glass shelves in large windows.  Now I simply rotate these treasures around the seasons, color-coordinating the glassware with the time of year.

I often reflect on the toothpick holders.  Within my memory are many years before TV, cell phones, and Daytimer agenda books—when folks had time to sit around the dining room table, picking their teeth to remove those shreds of leg of lamb or pork tenderloin. 

Along with fostering a leisurely quality of life, toothpick holders and toothpicks were probably a substitute for flossing.  Certainly a Vaseline Glass toothpick holder and toothpick afford a lot more ambience than could ever be found in that yucky floss which dentists and hygienists badger (no, order!) their patients to use!

As I enjoy the toothpick holders and all the other lovely old glass collections in our home, it is also fun to reflect on how American glass manufacturers produced such exquisite wares during the heyday of art glass—due to special sands and soils in places like Ohio and West Virginia, and the amazing skills of the glass-artisans who immigrated from Eastern Europe.  We have a special cultural history, here in the USA!  MB

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“To think to know the country and not know

The hillside on the day the sun lets go

Ten million silver lizards out of snow!”

Robert Frost, A Hillside Thaw

Of all my many favorite poets, Robert Frost is probably my MOST BELOVED!  And undoubtedly, A Hillside Thaw ranks alongside Frost’s Reluctance in the category of my MOST BELOVED POEMS. 

Along with much of the midwest, we are clearing out of a doozey of a blizzard.  Joe and I went to our local hospital in an ambulance on Monday, as Joe had his coronary artery symptoms—more severe than ever before.  The storm was brewing then, and the timing was good.  Joe was securely tucked into his hospital bed—with me at his side—for the duration of the blizzard which was just beginning and hit in full force the next day and night.

From commodious windows, I watched the storm beef up and then rage during the nights we were in the hospital.  On both nights, plows ran continuously around and around the parking lots and entrances—keeping the roads clear for emergency vehicles and hospital employees.  At one entrance the American flag whipped frenetically over the scene, as if to symbolize the many storms our nation has weathered through the years.

While hospitalized, Joe had 2 more stents (he is the KING OF THE STENTS!) and he is feeling much better.  Now we are home again, thankful beyond words for medical technology and a cozy home—our earthly shelter from storms.

I just took the (above and below) photos of a mountain which has covered Dylan’s play yard.  (For new readers on this site, Dylan is our sweet and whimsical Pembroke Welsh Corgi.)  Mountains have appeared all around our condo complex, as the village snow removal crew kept our neighborhood accessible throughout the blizzard. 

As I snapped the photo, I thought of Robert Frost and A Hillside Thaw.  The lizards certainly will not break out today, as the temperature is near zero—and probably not tomorrow or any time this week.  But it is February 3rd!  Normally in Southern Wisconsin, redwing blackbirds can return any time after February 24th!  And the lizards come before the blackbirds!

The snow is gorgeous.  The snow is breathtaking.  The snow is something wonderful to behold.  But I have to admit that I am now watching for those silver lizards, thawing and slithering out of Dylan’s mountain!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Twilight stretching out,

shadows lengthening at dusk . . .

soon the ice will crack.


I shiver with awe . . .

primal presence on the ice . . .

grey Canis Lupus.


Every night we wait,

listening for the shrieking

of mating coyotes.

Finally we hear them

penetrating bedroom walls . . .

howling ecstasy.


Dogwood in a jar

brings promise to our table;

outside, snow is heaped.


Corgi at my side . . .

a mug of steaming cocoa . . .

the moment is good.


Fragrance of moist earth

emerging from fields of snow . . .

winter cannot last.

Margaret Longenecker Been–All Rights Reserved

Published in BRUSH STROKES . . . word paintings by Margaret Longenecker Been, 2006

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Here is a photo of sunrise over our Northern Wisconsin bay.  The glow on the trees is reflected, as the trees border the bay on the west and catch the glory of the sun rising in the east.  This week Joe and I spent a couple of days at our home on this bay, where the sun spews diamonds on snow-covered ice.

Our guest house (uphill from our home on the bay) recently experienced heat loss, frozen pipes, and water damage–but never mind that.  Workers are drying the house out, and repairing the damage.  Our insurance will cover all but a fraction of the cost. 

Meanwhile, the constants prevail.  While up north we saw a bald eagle, high in a tree–scanning the countryside for his lunch.  And of course we enjoyed the plethora of deer.  (Each year I get concerned at hunting season.  Will hunters take out all the deer?  Of course that’s a hoot.  According to the 2006 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimate, there are 1.5 to 1.7 million deer in Wisconsin.  The hunters merely protect our forests from being totally devoured by the whitetails.)

Constants!  Where would we be without them–those aspects of life that never change, but rather go on inspiring us no matter what our circumstances?  We have sights and sounds to mark each season, and every day–concrete facts created by God to remind us of His faithfulness, material joys to cheer us during our time on earth:  invariables like sunrise and sunset changing on schedule–progressing and digressing throughout the years, decades, and ages.

Today, January 23rd, we have 9 hours and 35 minutes of daylight here at our Southern Wisconsin, Nashotah home.  That’s a gain of 36 minutes from the lowest ebb at winter solstice.  Even a few miles make a difference in the timing.  The city of Hartford, Wisconsin, just 15 miles northwest of our door, has 9 hours and 34 minutes of daylight today.  But after the spring equinox in March, the northern locations will pass us up; they’ll receive more minutes per day than we have here in the southern part of our state. 

I love figuring the daylight.  The afternoon (sunset) time must be changed to Army time.  (The morning increment–falling between midnight and noon–automatically reads the same as Army time, so it doesn’t need to be changed.)  If the number of sunset minutes is less than the sunrise minutes, one simply bumps back the afternoon Army time 1 hour while adding 60 minutes to the minute factor.  Voila.  Subtraction works, and it’s such fun–especially in these post New Year’s weeks when every minute counts!

Because of a recent medical emergency, our family has been reminded that life is “iffy”.  We thank God for our daughter’s healing which grows more and more encouraging as the days pass.  We realize that we can never know what’s around the next bend.  Yet there are the constants.  I love these words of a favorite hymn–Great Is They Faithfulness*:

“Summer and winter, springtime and harvest,

Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.”

Earth creature that I am, I celebrate the constants and thank our Lord for them.  He is the creator of the seasons, and the progression/digression of sunrise-sunset.  Our Lord is the ultimate Constant!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

*Great Is Thy Faithfulness–T. O. Chisholm-William H. Runyan

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“The snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.”

from The First Snowfall, by James Russell Lowell

Our first significant snowfall of the season began in the gloaming yesterday, and it was busy all night.  Now at 10:00 a. m. the next day, the treasure from Heaven continues to heap field and highway with its “silence deep and white”.

I’ll never get over the thrill of the first snowfall, and many that follow–until March, that is.  Then, like most of us here in the north, I’m ready for a change.

In the book of Job, God challenges the suffering Job to consider that He–the Lord of the Universe–is sovereign.  God asks Job, “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow . . . .?”                 (Job 38:22a)

Job understood God’s message of sovereignty, and so can we thousands of years later.  Now puny man can manufacture surrogate snow in the limited area of a ski run, but he cannot command great volumes of the genuine article to fall from Heaven non-stop for hours or days.  Only God can do that. 

What are the treasures of the snow?  Many answers surface:  the infinite creativity and variety of each snowflake as viewed through a microscope; the insulation of snow on plants, protecting them from winter’s below zero temperatures; the beauty of snow capped branches and bird feeders; the sense of  wonder which all but the dullest hearts must feel when traipsing through pristine powder in a world transformed by white; the fun of winter sports, experienced by many of us for years–and even in later years, via halcyon memories.

Perhaps the treasure I appreciate most is the slower pace imposed by snow.  We move more slowly, drive more slowly, and rest more.  We do special, festive things when it snows.  Today I mixed up pancake batter while Joe walked Baby Dylan.  We lingered over our pancakes, and then moved our coffee to a favorite spot beside the Christmas tree. 

Joe and I are never very hurried during these pleasant retirement years, but when a snowfall of at least 9 inches descends on us we slow down from andante to adagio.  What better way to live when surrounded by that “silence deep and white”?!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved 

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