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Sunday, January 10, 2010

a mind of winter

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One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;



And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter



Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,






Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place



For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.






"The Snow Man"
- by Wallace Stevens


NOTE: About Bishop, the barn cat in the photo, above. Several of you left comments that you are worried about her. She lives outdoors. She has a very, very thick coat of fur. She has an ever-heated cozy bed in the garage where she can go when she wishes. In the shot above, she is doing what she loves to do on a sunny winter day - squirm around in the snow so I will pet her. Believe me, she loves her outdoor life and romps out there all winter long. On the very coldest days, she stays in her warm bed perch in the garage.


I really feel very sorry, and even a little afraid, for my poor friends who live in the South of the U.S. and in parts of Europe who are unused to a cold winter and have had many days of freezing temperatures. I hope you will be feeling warmer in the next few days. If your house isn't warm, please layer on lots and lots of clothes, and wear a hat and gloves indoors if you have them. Weather.com says the next couple of days will see temperatures start to moderate for you in the South.

I don't know how long my love of winter will keep me in Michigan, if it will last until the end of my life, if the end of my life is another twenty or thirty years as my parents lived. Even if I bundle up and feel toasty, my fingers turn into icicles before the rest of me gets cold. I think they must have had minor frost bite one of those nights ice skating in Grand Ledge under the bridge. When I went out yesterday to shoot these photos, every bit of me was warm, especially my heart. Except for my fingers. Even with good warm gloves and sticking them in my pockets between shots, they froze. But regardless of my aching fingers, I will always have a mind of winter, in the sense of Wallace Stevens' poem.

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71 comments:

The Bug said...

Oh how I wish I had a mind of winter! I have more of a mind of 74 degrees at all times, inside & out. Isn't that boring?

I love your pictures, but am afraid for the cat - was it just enjoying the snow?

ds said...

Ruth, your fingers may have been cold (always toes first, for me), but your photos are definitely not!
They blaze, they are majestic, they are perfect. (Bishop the Sno-Cat--ha!)
I can hear Stevens' poem through your trees; I so love that poem, particularly the last lines...
Thank you.

CottageGirl said...

I too have a mind of winter. I appreciate the purity of the snow and sound that feet make when walking. I love the serenity of our neighborhood after a good snow storm. Cars go slower and more deliberately. I love how my garden looks. All I really hear are snow shovels and snow blowers and voices of neighbors yelling across yards talking about the snow.

Gorgeous pics, Ruth. I especially like the ones of the patterns of the snow on the top of your railing. Great eye! gentle voice.

PurestGreen said...

I am stunned by the gorgeous light in these photos - especially that sky that goes on forever.

Today I went out and things felt a bit warmer. So I think Britain will make it through this cold patch. Although I once again wore my gloves indoors today!

ps - I lovelovelove that photo of Floozie in the sidebar.

Annie said...

I love the images. It's a beautiful winter here too, everything is covered in frost and snow and ice is glittering in the air.

Loring Wirbel said...

How in the world did you get the cat to willingly post in the snow? It's 45 degrees and sunny in Colorado Springs, and that's enough of a winter mind for today.

My sisters took the lakeshore train to Chicago this weekend for my nephew's 30th birthday (gasp!), and they were worried about the car being buried at the train station in Michigan City. When they were ready to leave Chicago this AM, all outgoing and incoming trains were canceled until noon. They finally made it back to the Lake Michigan shores in Indiana. It was rough going, though.

ellen abbott said...

Your photos are so beautiful they almost entice me up there. If only I could be in a bubble and all I had to do was look at it's beauty instead of have to actually deal with the reality of that much snow and cold.

For my part, they are promising us warmer temps next week but it seems every day it's a day later in coming. the hard freezes are over though...perhaps.

Shaista said...

Ruth what incredible pictures, everyone of them extraordinary. I love knowing that you are right there behind the lens, an actual real person, through whose vision I see such beauty.
I am afraid everyone is worrying about this cat :)
The poem I felt sure was yours, but despite knowing it was written by Wallace Stevens, you seem to have made it unique with your own images... As for winter, my fingers are always frozen!!

*jean* said...

o that cat looks as happy as a cat can be...they love to be outside and you did say she was a barn cat....your winter pics are gorgeous! being a minnesotan, i share your love of winter and frostbitten fingers...we were/are never afraid to be outside...you just bundle up...and keep your car full of warm stuff and a coffee can, candle, matches, candy bar emergency kit, right??? but i do agree with you, for those that are not used to it, i can see where it would be totally unnerving

Deborah said...

I laughed at the cat in the snow! He looks very happy indeed and is a lucky guy to be able to live outside. The last time I adopted a cat from the SPCA they made me sign a form that said I would keep her indoors unless on a leash. So I lied, and signed. But how could anyone keep a cat indoors after seeing her chase flies in the garden on a spring day?
Your pictures are wonderful. I'm a winter-lover too although it does get a bit harder the more birthdays one has.

João said...

Brave cat, brave woman !
Yesterday it snowed in Travancinha in the morning - we threw a party.

Shari Sunday said...

Your pictures are beautiful and I can just feel the cold when I look at them. Maybe because it is cold here in this house. How sweet of you to have concern for us when you have so much more to deal with. All I can say is we are NOT used to this cold and the house never really warms up. Feels cold and damp all the time. I find I have no will to move at all. I though the cold energized people. Actually I know it does when you actually get up and go somewhere as we did this weekend. Jonah and his mom are gearing up to take the guinea pig back to his class today. It is a big cage and a long cold walk to his class room. I picked up the guinea pig last Friday so Jaime has to take it back today. Love and warm wishes from Florida.

Bella Rum said...

Ruth,
I love winter. I'm one of those who lives in the South. Well, compared to Michigan, Virginia is in the South.

I've been waiting a long time for a winter like this. This is much more like the winters we had when I was young. We had real winters then, with real icicles and sledding and building of snowmen and snowball fights. It's been years since we had winters like that on a regular basis. I miss it.
Bella

Peter said...

I saw the cat listening to the snow, as the poem said!

I come from a country where this kind of winter was common, but I must admit that I have now well adopted the usually warmer latitudes! We have had a little of snow aslo in Paris (not as much as elsewhere in France), but then they immediately close the parks, the only places where the snow looks nice for a while!

You are lucky to have some space around you where you really can capture the beauty of the winter!
The last photos with the "snow balustrade" are phantastic!

Susan said...

Oh, Ruthie, I wish I could love Winter the way that you do! I don't mind sunny winter days, but the gray and blue cold ones just make me yearn for Spring. My fingers freeze instantly when I go out, too, no matter how insulated the gloves, or how many layers I wear. I guess I was meant to be a Southerner.

Your pictures are so lovely...the light is just perfect. And Bishop looks as if she is smiling. I would love to sink my fingers into her thick, soft coat. Maybe that's what I need when I go out...a cat muff for my hands! :)

Renee said...

I too love the winter although I hate being cold.

xoxo

Kat said...

I love your photos. I am elated that we here in the south have had a great winter. The snow is still on the ground here, but will probably leave us today because temps are expected to go above freezing. Everyone born here thinks I am nuts when I wish for snow, but having lived in N. Ohio with all the Lake effect snow, I was privelaged to know winter.

Claudia said...

I'm blown away by your pictures! Awesome post!

♥ Kathy said...

Those are beautiful pictures Ruth! And I had a cat that would do the same thing :)

Babs-beetle said...

Beautiful photos! I went out on Boxing Day, and it wasn't all that cold then. I must say that while my body was warm, my fingers were hurting with the cold. A photographers lot I think ;) I am so sad that I have missed the photo opportunity with all this deep snow. I've waited for years for this snow, and I get flu!

Ruth said...

Dana of the snuggli, see, Bishop has a non-zipping snuggli. She wears it fall winter and into spring, it doesn't come off and she doesn't have to worry about open backs or fronts. She loves winter, like me. But when it's really cold, she stays on her warmy bed in da garage.

Ruth said...

DS, it was the coolest thing today. I got to the University, and it's the first day of classes. A visiting professor I think the world of (read his article before we hired him) stopped and chatted in the hall. And I told him I was excited he was teaching Contemporary American Poetry this semester, blah blah blah. So he said, guess what poem we're discussing today? The Snow Man! I smiled and told him it was my current post. Fun, huh?

Ruth said...

Oh yes, CottageGirl, the muffled sounds in snow, I love them. You know what I love? Our neighbor Bill's big tractor tire tracks when he plows our drive. It's like they become part of the place.

I'm still melted by the Gruyere rolls . . . ohhhhh.

gemma said...

Love the photos. Especially the last one with the sunbeams shining through the snow holes. Mostly my mind is for winter in Arizona. Once I spent a winter in New England and it was bone chilling cold.Brrrr.

CottageGirl said...

Hahahaha! I wish you could smell the house when they are baking ... Isn't Don off for MLK?

Anet said...

Ah yes, this is Michigan... frosty and beautiful!
We love to see Bishop!!! She is such a great cat:)
It is amazing the thick winter coats that animals grow for winter. I'm sure it provides all the warmth they need.
Sniffy gets a thick fuzzy coat too. But I still worry she's freezing her buns off. She doesn't have a warm barn like Bishop, just a nest in a tree:)

Oliag said...

Oh Ruth we are such kindred souls...I too have a mind of winter...and love this poem...and love how you illustrated this with such gorgeous photos...and love Bishop as I am also such a cat person...and love the synchronicity of your discussion with the new visitiong professor...


Lovely post!

Nancy said...

This reminds me of Minnesota. Beautiful pictures - I loved the sun peeping through the snow on the fence. A winter wonderland.

Get pocket warmers - those little things that heat up.

Ruth said...

PurestGreen, wow, it's something else what you got. I hope you'll be warming up. I loved the satellite photo of Britain at your post, which I hadn't seen, just crazy.

See, I thought maybe I was odd to say to wear your gloves indoors, but no!

Floozie thinks you're a doll after a close-up of your avatar. She says, "oh that's a purestgreen! pshaw!"

Ruth said...

Oh Annie, Helsinki looks like she was meant for snow in your photos. I've never seen a more beautiful city in winter. That photo of the Lutheran Cathedral with a man walking and a huge expanse of snowy stairs, and all those snowy rooftops, and trees coated with white, the yellow in the buildings, ooo la la!

Ruth said...

Oh no Loring, she wasn't posing. She was playing, squirming and begging me to pet and scratch her.

Hey, I have a niece who's 43! I was a 10-year-old Aunt Ruth when she was born. Did you hear about the train from somewhere to somewhere (I can't find it online) that was delayed 19 hours? That's two days! The track was covered with snow - at one point the drifts were 20 feet high - that's two storeys! Craziness.

I'm glad you're getting back to normal (but you know you could get another storm in a minute - it's Colorado!).

Montag said...

I think you have a Winter Mind.
Your visual poetry of winter...and then the chorus of comments:

...it snowed...we threw a party...
...I wore my gloves inside...

Very symphonic, and I have been studying it for about 30 minutes now.

Anyway, I myself go to the hardware store, and I buy the cloth gloves for $1 a pair, and I snip the tops off the fingers; those I wear inside if I'm sedentary enough to get chilly, and still have some manual dexterity.

Montag said...

Has anyone mentioned how much your photos of snow on a wood railing looks like a parade of polar bears heading to the right side of the photo?

Ruth said...

Ellen, I didn't realize there were so many frozen and leaking gas pipes down there, how frightening. And you unable to work in your unheated studio! I wish you lots of warmth - but not too much - in Texas.

Ruth said...

Dear Shaista, yes I worried a little about posting the poem this way, revealing Stevens at the end, for those who aren't familiar with the poem. I do wish I'd written it. Even my poetry mentor turns green with envy at the phrase "shagged with ice."

You have had quite a winter over there in UK. It's been beautiful, but I hope you've been warm, even your fingers.

Ruth said...

Yes, in theory you are so right, Jean, but I haven't put any of those things in my car yet! Thank you for the reminder, what a ditz I am. I have a 35 minute drive to work, I shouldn't leave home without all that stuff. Jeesh. Stay warm over there in Meenesowtah.

Deslilas said...

Winter is so fine for retired people fond of winter sports.
It's less nice when you've to drive or take a train to go at work.

Ruth said...

So, Deborah, the adopted cat would have been forced to live an un-cat-like life, sort of how you are being "forced" to live an un-Canadian-like life. I hope you will discover something surprising to connect you with France and make you feel at home in the months ahead.

Ruth said...

João, and was the party outside?

I don't feel brave. I would be brave to live with heat, like North Africa, or India.

Ruth said...

Shari, brrrr, 37° in Florida. That is good and cold. Your blood has thinned out, and you're not prepared for that. I heard it snowed somewhere in FL.

When we lived in Pasadena, I laughed at the native Californians when they donned down parkas, which they must have had for skiing in the mountains. It would be 50° out and there they'd be walking to school in winter coats.

Ruth said...

Bella, it's wonderful to be a child in winter, and being childlike is the next best thing. Yay Virginia! My dad was a Virginian.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Peter! A little winter in Paris is nice - an occasional snowfall, chilly enough to like going inside to a fire. But I imagine Sweden being a place I would love to experience winter. And a true Santa Lucia Christmas!

Ruth said...

Susie, today was one of your sunny winter days here, I hope it was for you too!

A fur muff would be just the thing, I agree. I'm afraid Bishop's fur is so thick you can't get your fingers very deep. Dense!

dutchbaby said...

At first I thought you wrote the poem to go with your photos, but no! You created the perfect images for this beautiful poem.

A few snowy days in Yosemite is about my speed for winter. I don't miss the ache of my cold toes in Amsterdam so many years ago. I love our mild climate here in Palo Alto.

Ruth said...

Renee, if I had a choice, I have to say I'd rather have it too cold than too hot. I can always pile on more clothes and blankets.

rauf said...

Every season has its own charm. You make the best of them in your life and in the pictures Ruth and you make something pleasant out of unpleasant. Winter is not good news for many, including animals, people wait for it to go. Not everything about nature is pleasant, it has its own horrors.

PPP is on his outings again, he has friends and enemies. Bishop too seems to enjoy all the seasons.

Ruth said...

Hi Kat. It still amazes me about Alabama, just crazy. I love how you snapped your header photo with flash, catching the snowflakes! Snow is very beautiful, and I am strange here too because I am reluctant to see it end, even in March.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Claudia. I do wish for a sunny Buckinghamshire very soon!

Ruth said...

♥ Kathy, cats, like humans, get used to the environment. We don't grow fur, unfortunately. That would be interesting.

Ruth said...

It's sad, Babs, that you couldn't go out with your new camera. You know I never heard of Boxing Day until blogging with friends in the UK. Now I hear it all the time. I hope you are feeling great now. I saw at weather.com it is snowing right now in London. From photos I've seen of your snowfall, you got more snow than we did!

Ruth said...

Gemma, I understand. I have driven through Arizona on the way to California, that's it. I would like to be in the desert for spring one of these days. I need a road trip. Thank you.

Ruth said...

CottageGirl, I think he has a 5 day weekend for that. :)

Ruth said...

Anet, and Bishop loves you! Or she would if she knew you. She would squirm around in the snow if you came. Is that a new kitty in your avatar??

When I drive to work and look at the cows and horses I wonder if they are warm enough. The deer too. I guess they have pretty thick hides.

Hugs to you, Noah and Sniffy.

Ruth said...

Oliag, my friend, I wish we could sit right here with mugs in our hands and chat, then put our boots on and go out for a walk in the snow. I bet you would see things I don't see.

Ruth said...

Nancy, oh! I bet Dick's has them. Thank you. I think I could get far if I had those.

Ruth said...

Montag, oh! I see that, the polar bears walking on all fours. Don saw those formations and called me to the deck.

Good idea about the gloves - I'm picturing those brown cloth gloves like they have at Meijer too.

Yes, a winter symphony, with a few notes of discord and dissonance to keep the music interesting.

Ruth said...

Daniel, like riding Finnish scooters? As that what you mean by winter sports? :)

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, if I had those days at Yosemite with the views you showed us I would be happy with winter too. The mist in the mountains and trees by the river with snow was like a dream. I enjoyed my time in San Francisco, and I know it gets quite chilly there. With the mountains close by, you can get plenty of winter. We went to Big Bear and another mountain area when we lived in Pasadena. It was fun to have snow but not much cold.

Ruth said...

rauf, I worry most about the places where wintry weather isn't normal. The birds and outdoor animals aren't used to it. Things freeze and they don't know how to find food. The homeless people suffer. I hope there have been beds enough and food enough for them.

I would suffer in the heat of Chennai if I lived there, but there would not be danger the way there is when it's freezing. I would just lie around and get nothing done.

Ginnie said...

It's a winter wonderland there, Ruth, similar to what I remember growing up. It just amazes me. And to think I totally missed the temps they're having in Atlanta these days. We NEVER experienced it that cold...except for maybe once, in 22 years!

Arti said...

Hey you down there, how I admire your winter, simply gorgeous! I'm way up here in Calgary, that's 51 latitude, where we're presently enjoying balmy weather, about 0C or 32F. After minus 20C temp. in the past month, we're counting our blessing and hope this warm front will last for a couple more weeks. But your photos tell me you don't really need to wait for warm weather to enjoy yourselves, and that's bliss! BTW, i just love the contrast of light and shadow in your photos... utterly inspiring!

photowannabe said...

I think its easier for me to have the mind of winter because i can look at and enjoy your gorgeous photos and think its oh so magical. In reality I'll just enjoy your pictures and stay in my warmer California climes.
The picture of the raindrops with the fence or garden chair is so beautiful. I love each one but the snow on the railing with holes as it mealts is one of my favorites. Ok, enough rambling. I'mm a huge fan of your blog!

Sandy said...

What gorgeously wonderful photos (and glad I'm not in the midst of it) but it is so beautiful. I love the one of Bishop.

Ruth said...

Boots, during the cold snap in the South I thought of what you said many times, that you missed it! I didn't know you never had anything like that while you lived there. I know you would have enjoyed it, as long as you could stay warm and be safe.

Ruth said...

Arti, hey up there! We are now having our January thaw, with temps above freezing. It is quite a nice break I must say.

Thank you for your kind comment about the light in the photos. I was experimenting with Shutter priority, and I was happy with the result, though that is not what I expected. I suppose some would say those shots are underexposed.

Ruth said...

You're so sweet, Sue. There is no doubt that winter is beautiful when it's still pristine. But I totally get the cold part and even feel it myself as I get older.

Ruth said...

Sandy, and you are in the midst of some battering storms on the West Coast now! I hope you're safe and snuggly.

kanmuri said...

Those beautiful pictures made me a bit homesick. Michigan winters look like Quebecois winters.
We also have a cat that lives outside all year. He's actually a stray that we feed. We call him Dandy. Like Bishop, he has a really thick coat of fur.

Ann said...

The first photo, the snow is so clean and untrodden, I like to see it remain this way.

The cat, I thought cats like to lie infront of the fire place. What an unusual cat. Even in mild, Auckland, we had cats sleeping on our bonnet of our car in our open garage.

Ruth said...

Kanmuri, I'm glad we're not the only ones who have an outdoor cat in the winter. :)

Ruth said...

Ann, yes, Bishop is a very unusual cat. Some days are a little too cold for her, and she stays put on her warm bed in the garage. But most winter days she is out frolicking and catching mice and birds.