thoughts on snow

PI_GOLBE_SNOW_AP_001Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set:

Snow is a substance that seems to have no immediate purpose. Is it a symptom or a cause? Is it living or dead? Is it an element? A force? Winter, in the Northeast of America at least, is the season of absence. It is the Great Undoing. Poets who live with four seasons often like to use winter as a metaphor for death, as in Longfellow’s “Snow-flakes.”

But for anyone who has watched the tree outside the window being stripped of its clothes, watched the garden that took so many months to grow waste away for lack of sun, watched the wasps suddenly, one morning, leave, winter is no metaphor — everything smelling of life shrivels until the last green thing is dead, icicles shoot up from the ground, changing the meadow to crust.

We accept the winter only because we have accepted the idea that death has a purpose: to make way for new life on Earth. We’ve been told from the beginning that life requires death, feeds upon it, needs our names for its young. This is the thought that makes winter bearable. We will spend months in abeyance, living in a void, standing by powerless at the retreat of our green soldiers as the army of cold advances, simply for the promise of a hint of a message that, one day, our soldiers will return. “So we wait,” wrote Rita Dove, “breeding / mood, making music / of decline. We sit down / in the smell of the past … We ache in secret, / memorizing / a gloomy line / or two of German.”

more here.