Words of Winter

Musical accompaniment: "Winter," from The Four Seasons, a violin concerto by baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

As January's snowfall settles down upon the hills and the marshes, and the coves and the bays, and the kettle ponds and the slated churchyards, and the grocery store parking lots and the fast food drive-thrus, I share here some wintry words I have encountered in my readings over the past days and weeks:


"The village lay under two feet of snow, with drifts at the windy corners. In a sky of iron the points of the Dipper hung like icicles and Orion flashed his cold fires. The moon had set, but the night was so transparent that the white house-fronts between the elms looked gray against the snow, clumps of bushes made black stains on it and the basement windows of the church sent shafts of yellow light far across the endless undulations."

- from Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (1862-1937)


"The house was full of the sound of the gale. It was a winter northeaster, furious with wind and snow, and driving down against us from the dark and desolate North Atlantic and a thousand miles of whitecaps and slavering foam. Wailings and whistling cries, ghostly sighing under latched doors, fierce pushings and buffetings of the exposed walls - thrusts one could feel as a vibration of the house itself - all these had something of their being in the sheltered and humanly-beautiful room. United with these, tumultuous and incessant, rose the higher aerial cry of the gale in space above the earth."

- from Northern Farm by Henry Beston (1888-1968)


"Within the house the lamps are lit, each filled to its brim with oil against the long usage of the hours, and the little parlor is comfortable with yellow light and a wood stove's fragrant warmth. It is yellow birch in that sable bastille, yellow birch which kindles so readily and whose bright flames send up from chimneys so unmistakable a smoke. And still it snows, falling through the pitch-black and windless night, feathering over the uneven footing of the shoveled paths, ridging twig and branch anew, and deepening the white levels of the lake."

- from Herbs and the Earth, also by Henry Beston


"In the bleak midwinter,

Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone,

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

Snow on snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter,

Long, long ago."

- from "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)


"Winter's wicked wail,

Lament, bemoan, deplore,

Almighty icicles, aplenty,

Daggers above my front door,

Memories, recollections exist,

I cannot seem to let them be,

For what I am, and what I will become,

'tis all because of thee."

- from "The Inspired and the Weary" by Thomas John McSheey (1899-1935)


"The moon on the breast,

Of the new fallen snow,

Gave the luster of mid-day,

To objects below."

- from "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement C. Moore (1779-1863)

{FYI: Full moons during this winter of 2009 arrive tonight, on February 9, and on March 11; known as the Wolf Moon, the Snow Moon, and the Worm Moon, respectively.}


Snowfall in the morning,

Trees touched with white,

Snowfall in the evening,

Drowning out moonlight,

Sitting, gazing by the window,

Awaiting that which nature brings,

Shrouded in winter's pageantry,

While dreaming of future springs.

- from "Shrouded" by J. T. Sheedy (1962-2045, give or take)


"win-ter \\wint-әr\\ n 1: the season between autumn and spring comprising in the northern hemisphere usu. the months December, January, and February or as reckoned astronomically extending from the December solstice to the March equinox  2: the colder half of the year  3: a period of inactivity or decay"

- from Webster's Collegiate Dictionary


"Bridge ices before road"

- from a sign along the turnpike


"Beware of frost heaves"

- from another sign along the turnpike


"St. Augustine, Florida - 3 bedrooms, 2 baths - $275,000" 

- from an online real estate listing that recently caught my eye 


Jack Sheedy 

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