In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow…
I woke early this morning with the frosty wind moaning around the corners of our house. Outside, it was -10º F with wind chills making it -30º F. Inside, the furnace had come on and was slowly heating the house. It was too early for the harsh realities of electric lightbulbs so I lighted candles instead and sat down to a cup of tea and leftover berry muffins—it is never too early for tea and muffins.
Outdoors it is truly bleak, even dangerous if one does not heed the advice of veterans or have the means to do so. I worry about them, the ones without the means; we haven’t had cold like this for twenty years. I think about my sister who lives further north with temperatures 10 to 15 degrees lower than ours. I wonder about the birds that haven’t flown south in recent, milder years.
Inside my house it is cozy, and we are hunkering down for the day. I will be making cinnamon rolls later for tea; I make them for holidays and bleak weather. Two years ago I made them during a blizzard and had just finished baking them when the power went out. We ate the rolls by candlelight and then went to bed early to read and stay warm under down comforters.
I look outside my kitchen window. There are no deer or rabbit tracks this morning. A lone brown leaf slides across the surface of the unbroken snow, pushed by the wind. A marigold sun the color of summer slides into the bleak midwinter sky to make mockery of the stone-colored water and iron earth. But there isn’t anything bleak about the glory of sun halos, diamond dust or the feathers of frost on my windows. Is there a poem some gifted writer framed in words to capture these wonders? My words are too paltry.
I wrote a post last spring about the cold—something voluble about it being relative. Three hours later with the furnace still chugging along without a break, and the house still chilly, it doesn’t feel relative.
art by Norman Rockwell, poem excerpt from Christina Rossetti