Ah, January. Waking up this morning to an unexpected snowfall, a squall, really, got me thinking about Wallace Stevens and his poem “The Snow Man.” Stevens was the master of capturing the bleak, the barren, the limitless expanses of our real and emotional lives, and this snowy morning just struck me as really representative of the tone and feeling in the poem. The squall was intense, the snow- not quite a whiteout- formed an ever moving pattern, blurring the backdrop of the back yard into pixellated flashes of green and brown and black. The white took over, though, and in that taking over left me, like the narrator in the last stanza, beholding the nothing there is (and the nothing I am). Nihilistic? Perhaps. But winter will do that to you.
Is it too early to be wishing for spring?
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.
© 2015, Brian Stumbaugh. All rights reserved.