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Archive for the ‘Winter Poem’ Category

The Long Deep Quiet


Frozen time unhinged . . .

pulsing, throbbing life unseen . . .

waiting to burst forth.

I’ve often wondered if those who live in a tropical or near-tropical part of the world experience the four seasons with as much joy, anticipation, and metaphorical musings as we do here in the North, where each one of the seasons is uniquely distinct!  I would certainly miss the round of annual changes that have been a part of life forever—even during a handful of years in my beloved Colorado, which does also have definite changes although (happily!) it can be 70 degrees there at Christmas.

It is fun to grouse about winter, but the truth is I LOVE it—especially now that we are in our dotage, and don’t have to go out on the roads unless we really want to.  Even a clinic appointment may be postponed if icy roads prevail.

I do know that occasional change can be delightful in winter.  Back in the days when I flew at the drop of a WHIM, to visit our out-of-state children, I enjoyed an occasional week with our son, Karl, in Denver CO which was sometimes warmer than Wisconsin, and other times capable of producing a sudden 18 inches of snow.

And I recall one January when I visited our oldest daughter, Laura, in the environs of Bellingham, WA.  I was treated with typical NW Rainforest weather.  A constant quiet, warmish rain made music on the metal roof of Laura’s home—like the melodious, soothing repetition of a George Winston piano composition.  I got so excited about the sound of the rain on the roof, that Laura’s six year old daughter, Nancy, asked—very pointedly—“Grandma!  Doesn’t it ever rain in Wisconsin?”

Conversely, Laura has traditionally loved to come home to Wisconsin in January—especially when we lived in the deep, quiet Wisconsin Northwoods.  There it is normally anywhere from 15 to 30 degrees below zero in January, the kind of weather when nose hairs freeze and crackle.  The kind of weather where the sun, slowing climbing back Northward, is brilliantly blinding as it reflects on snow and ice.

Laura and I would sit each bitter cold, sunny morning, watching for the local bald eagle to cruise over our frozen flowage lake—while to the discerning eye, various soft tints of color occasionally played across the ice as the sun moved overhead.

Now, 285 miles South of that high winter home, we are just as contented.  Winter is the deep quiet time of our four seasons year.  For the home-loving soul who thrives on “making”, winter days are creative—whether “creative” means home-made bread hot from the oven, a painting, a morning of piano practice, a garment growing on the knitting needles, or most any other kind of “making”.  In Wisconsin we have our deep snow winters, and our winters with hardly any snow.  But winter is winter.

How thrilling to know that, as we relish this quiet time of crafting, music making, or whatever, the sun grows stronger and higher in our hemisphere every day.  Each year I print out sunrise/sunset/length of day charts for December of the past year and January, February, and March of the current year.

The U.S. Navy produces these online charts.  For the more scientific mind, charts including the length of twilight at each end of the day are available.  But I am contented just to read the times of the sun’s appearing and disappearing—and the growing moments of daylight.  Even as I type this blog entry, we have gained 5 minutes of daylight since the winter solstice.  This thrills me to my bone marrow!

Growing daylight is a testimony to God’s faithfulness, as expressed in the beloved hymn:  “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas O. Chisholm (lyrics) and William Runyan (music).  The verse, “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” resounds with truth and life through the visuals of our four seasons climate.

And winter, with its long deep quiet, is as much a witness to God’s faithfulness as spring and high summer with their green explosions, and autumn with its mellow bounty.  In the winter we know that life continues quietly underground, gathering strength in the ever-increasing daylight while pulsing, throbbing, and waiting to burst forth!

Margaret L. Been — January 4th, 2019

 

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“There are strange things done in the midnight sun

By the men who moil for gold;

The Arctic trails have their secret tales

That would make your blood run cold;

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

But the queerest they ever did see

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

I cremated Sam McGee.”

Robert Service, “The Cremation of Sam McGee”

For some unfathomable reason, every year about this time I get out my COLLECTED POEMS OF ROBERT SERVICE and read through the selections night after night—especially those narratives set in North America’s last frontier.  There is something infinitely exciting and wonderful in reading about the utterly frozen northern reaches of the world—when winter gales are howling outside our windows and we are snuggly secured in a warm bed, in a warm house.

My love for Robert Service goes back to the 1940s, and my Wauwatosa High School days.  Forensics were big in schools back then, and each year I competed in the dramatic reading division.  Always, someone would recite from Robert Service—choosing “Sam McGee” or the “The Shooting of Dan McGrew, and presenting these narratives with hilarious tonal effects as well as body language.

I wonder if (and seriously doubt that) contemporary young people have ever heard of Robert Service, let alone read him!  Do today’s students even know what a narrative poem is?  If not, I wonder if they have a gnawing sense of missing something vital—some integral aspect of the human experience!  The oral tradition of the narrative poem predates written history; it is as essential to the whole person as those material basics of water, food, and air.  Like music, the narrative poem is ancient and universal! 

I grew up on English language poetry—line upon line, volume upon volume, year upon year of it.  Ingrained in my soul are lines from classic narratives such as:

“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,

The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,

And the highwayman came riding . . .

Riding . . . riding,

The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.”

Alfred Noyes, “The Highwayman”

The spell binding quality of the narrative is unknown to many today; yet it is familiar to the youngest child whose parents have the good sense to read aloud to him or her from small babyhood on.  I have grandsons who love poetry, and write verses with ease, because their mother read to them from Day One—as she nursed them.  Children love narratives and any other poetry containing rhyme and meter.  Even an extremely active child will slow down and go dreamy eyed in the presence of a real poem—which, when read with sensitivity, is a form of music!

Perhaps many of us who write poetry today tend to eschew structure in our lines because of the Greeting Card Phobia!  Greeting cards are fun to receive, and I confess I sometimes send them to friends and family members.  But what is inside a greeting card is normally so generic and predictable, it deserves the classification of TRITE!  We poets tend to shrink from producing anything that might read like a greeting card! 

I know that I have written a number of “poems” which are not really poems at all; rather they are prose paragraphs strung out in lines to resemble a poem!  Contemporary poetry can abound in figurative language, apt metaphors, and depth of content.  Yet if you were to unstring some of my poems, and format them into paragraphs, you would be  struck by their “prosy-ness”!

Surrounded in my home by stacks and shelves laden with centuries of great poetry, I continually fill my hunger with pages from the past.  I honor my “debt” to our English language heritage by immersion—and thereby feed my eager soul in the process!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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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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Splotches of sunlight

warm my January room

with golden promise. 

————————————-

People to love . . .

my branches are glowing

even in winter.

———————————-

Lonely patio

piled in mounds of snow

dreaming of summer.

—————————————

Winter days

unravel silently, inexorably . . .

endless white ribbon.

—————————————

Winter nights

more silent than the days . . .

waiting for the coyotes.

—————————————

Winter weeks . . .

dreaming of peepers and redwings

in the bog.

———————————————–

A lowering sky . . .

snow spewing, wind keening . . .

soul’s lachrymosa.

——————————————

Twilight stretching out,

shadows lengthening at dusk . . .

January hope.

——————————————-

Margaret Longenecker Been–All Rights Reserved

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view-on-a-sub-zero-day2

Soundless moments,

hours crystalized in time . . .

forgotten time,

dreamless drifts of time

dismantled, spread

on galaxy of trackless snow.

Prints of yesterday

buried like the river

in a glass tomb,

lost in unremembered time.

Tomorrow’s leaden boots

have ceased their tromping,

sunk their steely treads

in frozen time.

Wind pauses, catatonic,

pulse near death

in winter bog.

by Margaret Longenecker Been

Reprinted from A TIME UNDER HEAVEN

by Margaret Longenecker Been, Elk River Books

All Rights Reserved

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