Category Archives: The Roost

A blog at Thoreau Farm, written and edited by Sandy Stott

Winter Greening

A quiet post for January’s end, in honor, perhaps, of our next and new 6 inches of snow.

Along our Street

Along our Street

As I note from time to time, and as I walk and shovel through this winter, I am also reading through others – 18s 55 and 56 to be precise – in Thoreau’s journal, and in deep January (a thick winter then, as well), I have come upon this:

A journal is a record of experiences and growth, not a preserve of things well done or said. I am occasionally reminded of a statement which I have made in conversation and immediately forgotten, which would read much better than what I put in my journal. It [the statement] is a ripe, dry fruit of long-past experience which falls from me easily, without giving pain or pleasure. The charm of the journal must consist in a certain greenness, though freshness, and not in maturity. Here I cannot afford to be remembering what I said or did, my scurf cast off, but what I am and aspire to become. 1/24/56

This winter journal is rife with just such greenness and aspiration. Even as it notes a cold that empties the landscape, its pages fan out before the reader, considering the Rig Veda, crow tracks and diet, the citizenship of elms, and the raised effect of walking atop snow:

The snow is so deep along the sides of the river that I can now look into nests which I could hardly reach in the summer. I can hardly believe them the same…Thus we go about, raised, generally speaking, more than a foot above the summer level. So much higher do we carry our heads in the winter. 1/24/56

I especially like Thoreau’s sense of being uplifted, “so much higher,” in deep winter. So different from the trudging slump so many exhibit when the snows add up, it is a sort of “greenness” in winter.

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Marginalia – Notes at the Margins of Day

A poem to which I return from time to time is Billy Collins’ Marginalia. Collins writes about margin-notes he’s found over a reading lifetime; one favorite explains a smudge by saying, “Pardon the egg-salad stains, but I’m in love.”

It’s not a book, but the sea’s edge also holds comment, as does the edge of day.

At day’s end I go down to the sea for late January’s added minute or two of light. On this day, the low sun is nested in a slate and pastel backdrop, and the news of the recent coldsnap drifts by as a slurry of near-ice. Tomorrow, the bay will be transformed; it will carry a cloak of ice that will rise and fall with the 9-foot tide. And soon miniature bergs will litter the shoreline, tossed and thrust up by collision and wind; we will look arctic along our edge.

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As I watch it the sun also looks for a moment like a smudge, a fingerprint on the sky’s margin. Yes, I love the little added light as night comes on.

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Time’s Measure – Woodsclock

I’m in my morning sun-chair, and today, approximately a month after solstice, the sun’s strong enough to wrinkle my brow as it bears in from the southeast. Every so often it slides behind a thin pine; then, ticks later, it’s back, and, faintly, it warms. “It will be long coming,” seems the promise of more light and warmth given, “but it will be.”

It occurs to me that I have a new way of measuring time’s passage. I have a woodsclock. That “clock” is the small stand of white and pitch pines outside my southeast window. As the sun rises along its shallow, winter arc, it slides behind this irregular grouping of trees; their shadows shift bluely over the snow. Today, they began their passage pointing in my direction, fingers of shadow amid shafts of light. Then, as the sun worked across the southern sky, they shifted toward parallel. Finally, now, as late morning comes on, the shadow-digits have begun to point away from me before disappearing entirely as larger trees block the sun’s light.

Many hands of the clock

Many hands of the clock

Time, my woodsclock says, to rise and shift the focus of my day.

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