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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Where a mind of winter resides

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The woods near Arcadia, Michigan; that blue haze at the horizon is Lake Michigan

I hope you can put up with winter a little longer.

I loved being with my raven sister on the weekend, up in our part of the world, the place we went as kids on vacation in the northwest finger of the mitt of Michigan. We took down Christmas ornaments and lights in the lodge. It’s her hobby to decorate, and I helped her de-decorate. I wound thousands of white lights into balls, for hours while she wrapped 1,500 glass ornaments into boxes. I don’t care about decorating any more, but I got to be with her and watch her in her glorious element. And we watched the Oscars in her cozy condo in the hundred-year-old lodge.


 The Anniversary Ball in November at the Inn


Beach Lodge, one of the buildings at Portage Point Inn

Outdoors I got to breathe, walk and listen to the "nothing" of winter in that great north country, among spruces, pines, and birches on the hills around frozen Portage Lake and up on the bluff at Arcadia looking out over Lake Michigan. In winter, these contoured hills, coned trees, and white and green clapboard buildings of the lodge are quiet, unlike in summer when tourists swarm to the aqua waters of northwest Michigan. Only a few lodgers spent the night under neighboring roofs. Hardly a vehicle passed as we parked on the shoulder of M-22 and crossed to climb the lookout over Lake Michigan. Snow quiets and slows everything, even up the road where skiers were shushing down the hills.


Across Lake Michigan, to the right, is Wisconsin, about 60 miles away;
elsewhere Lake Michigan gets to 118 miles across

I claim this quiet northern winter, though I have never lived there. I spent two weeks of summer vacation with my family at a cottage up the road for just a few years, half of which are prior to my memory. A few weeks’ making, and this terrain is mine. I don’t know if I will ever move to another state. (I have done so previously, even to another country.) I drove four and a half hours to be there Saturday and four and a half hours back again Monday. It was worth it, but how could I move even farther away?

Before winter is over, I have to post the winter poem: The Snow Man, by Wallace Stevens.




The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens

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.


Portage Point Inn
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67 comments:

Elisabeth said...

Oh such a wonderful post, Ruth, and all I could think as I read through and admired these beautiful photos is what must it be like to be there, in all that cold. Day after day and week after week. And then the contrast in summer how would that be?

Our seasons turn, too, but never as sharply as these. For us it means an extra jumper, boots instead of sandals but I do not own a proper coat. I do not need one here. Not when I'm inside the car most of the time and when I walk it gets too hot for too much wool, a jumper or two is enough.

Still today I feel like complaining because the thermostat on our heater is broken and although in theory it's still too warm for artificial heating, I'd like to take the chill off, only because it should be so much hotter here at this time of year.

We have lost our summer already this year but most of us do not complain because too years ago we had a summer of hellish heat and it's better for milder climes.

Thanks, Ruth.

Deborah said...

Oooooh, I want to go there - and not in summer! You write beautifully of this place with something approaching reverence. I loved the phrase ' I claim this quiet Northern winter...'
I've said something like this before, but I would not have known how lovely Michigan was had I not seen it through your eyes.
Am sending this post to my daughter, who relishes her Northern winters above all other seasons.

Susan said...

The stark beauty of winter there comes alive with your touch, Ruthie, through your words and your lens. I can almost feel the elements surrounding me. You almost make me want to experience it. :)

That inn is just gorgeous. No wonder Nancy loves working there...living that life. I would drive 4 1/2 hours each way myself...but maybe in spring or summer. :)

M.L. Gallagher said...

I am always amazed by the diversity and magnificence of the beauty of our world -- everywhere. Living in landlocked prairies, at the foot of the Rockies, I forget the sweeping vistas of lakeshores.

Thank you for sharing this spectacular corner of your world and for letting us see into your claim for just a moment -- Wow!

rauf said...

i often wonder how people lived before electricity and artificial heating and cooling. i can't claim that i am living without these artificial devices. i want to fight the heat Ruth. But i lose the fight when a friend arrives when i have to switch the fan on for his or her comfort, i have to make them comfortable as they take the trouble of coming to see me in such unbearable heat. i offer them water, but they want tea my sister makes. i switch the fan on in the nights sometimes when i wake up sweating and find my pillow wet with my sweat. Sometimes it gets too hot. A friend offered his new air conditioner which i refused to accept. i can afford to bear the heat but i dread bearing cold without heavy clothing wearing them i can't even stand up. i had a light weight duck feather coat which i wore during my Himalayan treks and it did not protect me enough from the cold and falling snow. What kept me alive was non stop walking and climbing which generated heat and i couldn't afford to stop.

Pictures are magical Ruth. i love the snow on the railing.

Eric 'Bubba' Alder said...

Stellar photos! It's no wonder people like Hemmingway and Frost fell in love with Michigan, my home state.

Evelyn said...

These pictures are breathtaking.
look at the different blues of the lake.
I am in awe...

kenju said...

Such gorgeous photos!!

blueoran said...

"The Snow Man" is the perfect accompaniment to your beautiful pix of far-northern, deep winter. The only way to behold such foreign nature is to find a language for it, which Stevens does. Your account of the visit is lively and lovely, bringing back fond recollections to me of a 2-week summer vacation to Mackinac Island (I think) back in 1974 when I was still in high school A cabin with no power utterly surrounded in wilderness - couldn't be further from our existence then in downtown Chicago. Dolomite mines in the area which caused us to deep-nap incessantly. The water we swam in ice-cold. A girl on a ski-boat who invited me to a dance in town. Nights so dark the heavens burned through. Thanks for the ice and snow. Here in Florida it's been in the 80s, with the scent of orange blossoms now issuing their musk from the groves. Thanks for stopping by my blog, and thanks for the great work you're doing at A Year With Rilke. Essential. - Brendan

Bruce Barone said...

Totally beautiful in all ways.

And The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens has a special place on my desk!

Shari Sunday said...

What a beautiful place. I understand connecting to a place forever after even one visit. In fact, I believe it might be possible in imagination, but not nearly the same. I like the thought of you and your sister watching the Oscars from there. I would like to see what her condo looks like before all the lights and glass globes came down.

ellen abbott said...

It is beautiful...in pictures. And I would probably enjoy it in person for a couple of hours. but to live in it day after day, month after month? I would miss the growing things too much, not to mention freeze to death. My blood is too thin for that kind of weather.

erin said...

It is only when you know it
that you know it,
it is only when you've suffered
that you can celebrate,
only when the pine holds meaning,
only when you have stood beneath its boughs in summer, light flooding out of the limbs of this giant umbrella, only when the rain has plinked and clung and last minute declined its dance, only when the boughs like arms have taken you in to cut the wind's autmumn's whip, only when you have stood beside the quiet descent of winter's shoulders, ladden white boughs, your arms, its arms, there being little difference, only then will you know winter. and then when you know winter, when you know it in your bones, when your blood adjusts, when your eyes receive and you forget to fight, only then are you complete.

i love rural michigan. especially the upper pen. it is rugged. it has a shadow all day long. it broods. it warns. and if you dare, it excites. and when you are spent, it holds you like a lover spooned.

wonderful. i'm glad you have it. i'm glad it has you.

(where i live is mighty similar:)

xo
erin

Babs-beetle said...

I don't mind a little more winter, when it's as beautiful as that! Your photos do it perfect justice!

Heidi-"Heidi in Real Life" said...

Beautiful pictures and poem. You make me feel guilty for hating winter now, in March. I am from Detroit, but now live in Green Bay, WI. Wave hello next time you're at the shore! ;-)

ds said...

Ahhhh...You claim it and it is yours, your quiet Northern winter. And Mr. Stevens (whose poem I adore). You have caught the colors and "the nothing that is" beautifully. Thank you.

I leave to work in peace now, due to this gift of yours.

Jill said...

Gorgeous blog, gorgeous images and poetry. I love summer and the heat, but I suspect I could learn to enjoy winter and snow, as well.

Dakota Bear said...

Beautiful pictures and wonderful poem!

I'm sitting at my dining room table enjoying the beautiful sceen on snow blanketing the hill behind my house. It is such a peaceful scene.

Loring Wirbel said...

Oh! You've taken us to PPI before, I like it when you return to a familiar scene from previous Synchs. Like the new home page logo, too!

Margaret said...

This actually squeezed my heart, Ruth. It was SO hard to move away from Petoskey, MI. The beauty, the charm of Northern Michigan is wonderfully described in your post an the poem. Swish, swish, the quiet, the freshness... I am wiping away tears and have a heavy heart. But it is a good feeling - memories and the knowledge it is there to visit, and move back to someday if we want! I will need to rely upon you to supply me with these much needed booster shots of Northern Michigan. I sincerely thank you.

kanmuri said...

Beautiful. Your post made me want to go in a cabin in the woods to snuggle by the fire with agood book!

Jeanie said...

Oh, Ruth, a post so full of love and spirit as this is a fine read today on this cold (but sunny) entry into March. I confess, I fuss about winter -- but when I see something like this, I think "maybe someday my summer place will become my winter place too, and I'll like that season a bit more" -- no doubt, it is beautiful!

I think you hit it spot on when you said, "how could I think of moving farther away" (or something close and far more eloquent). I think that all summer and fall long.

Char said...

breathtaking views and shots. i would relish the quiet and the solitude. part of the reasons why i love the beach in the winter.

come south, i will show you spring.

The Solitary Walker said...

I can only agree with what everyone else has said, like a muted footfall in the snow following the tracks before me! Though my 'mind of winter' has become jaded of late, and I need the lost echo of spring.

Friko said...

The vastness is breathtaking and how much more so because all it white and milky-misty.

I would love to be there when all is solitude and still and silent.

The Inn looks a wonderful place to come back to at night.

Ruth said...

Elisabeth, sometimes it's all I can do to get my head around the reverse seasons between us and you. No matter how cold it is outside, we have to have it warm inside, so I understand your need to take the chill off. Now that we're in March, we will see a little of everything all month: more snow, and thawing days. Sometimes we get a snowfall as late as April. I've heard that we are to have a long chilly spring. I remember two years ago when we wanted sunflowers for Lesley's wedding, and they never did bloom, it was so cool that spring, and their growing season just didn't start soon enough. I hope we can have a good long garden growing season this summer. I guess it's the extremes of weather that get us complaining. I prefer extreme cold to extreme heat. I find it awfully hard to work when it's very hot.

Thanks so much, Elisabeth.

Ruth said...

Deborah, so you and your daughter have a mind of winter too? I love that. I do have reverence for the Michigan northwest. There is an almost spiritual quality about it. It's amazing too, because it's not on the way anywhere, unless you're going to the U.P. So you know it's special, as it draws so many through the year, but mostly in the summer. I also love to trek through state parks by Lake Michigan in winter, when no one is around, and the snow and ice have created extraordinary art. Thanks, my friend.

Ruth said...

Susie, I know you enjoy the visual beauty of winter, and I know you suffer from the cold. I don't blame you one bit for wanting to move to a warmer part of the country. Did I tell you Don has been looking at South Carolina for retirement?

Nancy works on the road doing training, and then she comes to the inn for a few weeks to decorate. The owner has asked her to fix up three cottages, and don't you think she's excited?

Maybe you and David could go up there and stay sometime. There is pretty good fishing, I hear. i wonder if there is any good fly fishing nearby . . .

Thanks, dearie.

Ruth said...

Louise, yes, it is fascinating to consider living in a different landscape. As a child I resented not having mountains, or even hills, in central Michigan where I grew up and live now. I believed mountains were a necessity for happiness, and I loved riding with my parents to New Jersey once or twice a year, crossing over the mountains of Pennsylvania. The Rockies are almost like a legend to me, and almost as foreign as the Alps. Here, I consider clouds as my mountains. :-)

Barb said...

Hello Ruth, I'm so glad you took the drive north and spent time in this beautiful, scenic place. Is the water open? It doesn't look frozen even at the edge of the beach. The green, blue, violet of the water is fabulous. The lodge reminds me of New England buildings. What views! Your photos are magical and wonderfully illustrate Steven's poem.

Ruth said...

rauf, we've talked before about some of the world's poorest people, who thankfully live where they don't have to worry about the cold, and paying for heat, which they wouldn't be able to do. Of course we have homeless here like that, and on our coldest nights I worry about them. We have shelters, but not everyone makes it into them, for one reason or another.

When Don and I come to Chennai and travel around India with you, I don't know what I will do about the heat, rauf. You will think I am the dullest person in the world, you will wonder, Who are you, and what have you done with Ruth? I simply turn into a lethargic lump of melted flesh, good for nothing. But what I hope is that I will adjust in a couple of days.

And likewise I worry if you come to Michigan. Even in the house it is much cooler than you are used to!

Patricia said...

Ruth, The photographs convey cold... sunny, clear, cold. They are breathtaking.

Terresa said...

Winter settles here nicely in the stark, chilling beauty of Stevens (one of my favorite poems & poets!) paired with photos that sing of snow, spruces, ice and a distant glitter (not to mention a dear, sister-love). What a treat this post is, Ruth!

Ruth said...

Eric 'Bubba' Alder, I knew about Hemingway, but I didn't know about Frost! Wiki says: In 1921 Frost accepted a fellowship teaching post at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he resided until 1927; while there he was awarded a lifetime appointment at the University as a Fellow in Letters.[6] The Robert Frost Ann Arbor home is now situated at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Thank you so much!

Ruth said...

Evelyn, I am so happy you noticed the variance in blues, which is what I love most about those waters. They alter and deepen in different seasons, in different weather. You can drive all up the coast, around the peninsulas, and be surrounded with aqua, turquoise, ultramarine, and teal.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Kenju! My ears got a little cold, but I loved being out in it.

Ruth said...

Brendan, in turn let me thank you for those images of a Chicago high schooler up on Mackinac Island. It sounds as though the nights and days also were seared in your memory.

I know that in Florida you have had some chilly weather, but now, ahh, Florida is becoming its best, when the orange blossoms do their dolomite duty. I'll never forget the elation I felt at my niece's in Sarasota, getting in and out of the car in their driveway, which had a grapefruit tree bending over it, in bloom. I kept looking for excuses to go to the store so that I could smell its fragrance and believe that I could die on the spot. Again and again.

Thanks for your good visit, for your very informative and insightful comments at A Year with Rilke, and for your exquisite poetry and blog.

Ruth said...

Bruce, I'm so glad you found this beautiful. Wallace Stevens has nailed it, hasn't he? Thank you.

Ruth said...

Shari, I think I know what you mean. In the imagination, connection and longing are beautiful, but I can never quite get my head and heart around the object as when I am in place.

The decorations were in the inn's ball room. She had decorated it for her son's anniversary ball Thanksgiving weekend, which I've linked in the post under the photo of little Emmet by a candle. Her condo is gorgeously fit out, as all her living spaces are and ever have been. I told her before I started this blog over five years ago now, that she should start a blog. I wanted to see her handiwork in a space like this. We would love it!

Ruth said...

Ellen, you of Texas. I know that even you have had chillier weather than you're used to, and it's hard when it snows and ices, since you don't have equipment to handle it.

It's interesting what you say about growing things. When we lived in Pasadena, I actually wearied of things always blooming, and the lack of dormancy. I longed for winter in Michigan. Is it in our genetic makeup? Or do we just get accustomed to a climate?

Ruth said...

erin, my dear. You are the genius of the body, of arms, of blood and bone. Please never stop. Please. The body-image. Understanding the world through body.

Those long shadows in Michigan, and longer as we head north, yes up there by you, this is the light I love. How it hits the grass! How the blades of grass extend down our arms like hair.

See, now you have me doing it. :-)

Ruth said...

Babs, so you can see that I am in love?

:-)

Ruth said...

Welcome and thank you, Heidi! Of course we have all been thinking a lot about you over there across the lake in these days of pizzas at the Capitol. You're from Detroit! You will see more of that city in the days to come. Perhaps it is not so picturesque always, but awfully rich in important ways. Hope we can get it back. I will wave across Lake Michigan next time I'm over there!

Ruth said...

My dear ds, we do love nothing, you and I. We need nothing, for peace, I think.

Thank you for the gift of you.

Ruth said...

Welcome, and thank you, Jill, it's great to have you following! The way cold weather clothing is now, you can actually enjoy being out in it. I do love it, though my fingers and toes get cold very quickly.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Dakota Bear. It is lovely to think of you also enjoying a winter scene at the same moment.

Ruth said...

Loring, you have such a good memory. Now that I hardly ever do FB, and you hardly ever do Icono-bloggy, I miss seeing your snowstorms in CO. But I am heading over to visit your post about a poet published! Yay!

I'm glad you like the header! I love winter, but I needed a breath of spring. :-)

Ruth said...

Margaret, a heavy heart with good memories and feelings, I understand that melancholy. It means a lot to me that this touches you, because I know how you love Petoskey and all of northern Michigan. I hope it didn't make you sad. xoxo

Ruth said...

Thanks, Kanmuri, what a cozy image of you!

Ruth said...

Jeanie, don't feel bad about that weariness of winter. We all take it in varying degrees of readiness. There is no good or bad about it, just because I love winter doesn't mean there is something right about me. It just is. I'm fortunate to have a choice and be able to live where I love to be. You get out into Michigan far more afield than I do, but I'm learning from you, and I'm doing it more and more.

Deslilas said...

Almost more beautiful than our "artificial" ski resort near La Plagne with a nice view over the Mont Blanc and the Beaufortin.
You may see some pics on the facebook file of my daughter anna
cherouvrier hansson.

Ruth said...

Char, the quiet of the water and the beach. The solitude.

Spring in the south, this is heaven.

Ruth said...

Robert, you have had a rough winter there, more so than usual. No doubt your walking feet have been antsy to get out and make tracks of your own, and not in snow!

Ruth said...

Friko, such romance in these places. I could not live without the north. Well I could, but if I have a choice . . . I know how you love to read, and I can see you in the lodge, near a window looking out into the cold blue night, under a lamp and an afghan. Ahhh.

Ruth said...

Barb, you show us the beauties of your mountains and woods in winter. So gorgeous. The lake was open, yes. Sometimes when it gets extremely cold it freezes up near the shore. The colors of blue fill me up, their turquoise and aqua and sapphire, yes. The lodge is 100 years old, and every bit as wonderful inside too. Thank you so much.

Ruth said...

Patricia, thank you. It makes me happy to enjoy winter and even happier to share it and find others who enjoy it, at least visually!

Ruth said...

Terresa, sometimes I wonder if I loved winter as much before I read Wallace Stevens' poem. I don't think I did. I loved it, but he gave the love words. Thanks so much, my friend.

Ruth said...

Daniel, more beautiful than a view of Mont Blanc and the Beaufortin? Well, I'd better go see! And I don't even go on Facebook any more. But this I will check out. Good to see you!

deb colarossi said...

Ruth.. It all looks so enchanting. Except for the water. The water is a bit haunting.

I like the two together. I would like to wander in how that makes me feel. I like that I can via you and your amazing ability to transport your readers. Truly. This is what you do. I leave, changed , always.

Oliag said...

So you have an Arcadia too! From the photos it certainly looks like a wintery arcadia...and the photos illustrate THE winter poem so well they could be made up into a book...

What a beautiful place to spend a winter's weekend with a sister:)

Vagabonde said...

The arctic blue of the lake, the softness of the snow and the inn which fits perfectly in this landscape (looking so northern to my eye because of its roof) – I can see how all of this feels your soul with joy.

Arti said...

Winter, I have here. Snow, lots of it too. Lake, yes, somewhere if I want to drive out there. Basically, my winter is similar to what you have, except not as magnificently captured by your aesthetically sensitive eye. But what I don't have, Ruth, and which I yearn for all the more after I've read your post is sisterhood. I never had such warm and fun childhood experiences or present day reality shared with a sister... I know that will always remain a big hole in my life.

Stratoz said...

Breathtaking. Go ahead and celebrate winter and being connected to a place.

Peter said...

When I see the snow, the spruces, birches, pines… I cannot but think back on my younger years in Sweden. When I see a dream landscape like this, I wonder if I regret it. There were some wonderful days when you could go skiing under a blue sky… but there were also… I can understand that the immigrants who came from similar climate, landscape… were happy to settle down here. What I find more difficult to understand is why people settled down in a cold and rather hostile environment, more extreme than in Michigan, when there was still space available in more temperate areas. Today you can enjoy central heating, triple windows, bathtubs with hot water…

Montag said...

The waters wear an alien majesty in winter and in summer. They communicate with us about what is above and what is below.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

How do you manage to tease so much warmth out of such cold environs? It is true poetry to make the vast snowy nothing feel downright cozy.

Ginnie said...

Tears in my eyes, Sister, because sometimes I CAN'T bear it...the distance. How can one thing, the life you live, be so bittersweet. How can anyone bear it, the two sides to the one coin. And yet, like the mind of winter, it finds its peaceful place of acceptance and beauty.