Saturday, December 8, 2007

Snowy Night

It's strange how snow muffles the sound of the world, places a hush over it that not even the seemingly endless traffic on Bowles can penetrate. The cars, moving trepidaciously, are barely audible and only the deep rumble of the ploughs and sanders emit any noise at all, and even that is little more than vibration, something felt, by my skin and deep organs, rather than heard. I have spent time on the patio with my eyes closed, face turned into the last downy trickles of flakes wafting down from above, flakes not even falling so much as drifting and mingling, dancing lazily with the still currents of the air before coming to rest on my nose and cheeks. I've taken my cue from Duncan, who knows how to appreciate snow, taste it and breath it in, allow it to cover his face, slip down the length of his nose and drip finally at his feet. He is a connoisseur of the weather and a poet of the seasons.

After our walk we trudged home, my Vans soaked, the cuffs of my jeans ice-encrusted from the nearly continuous snow-scattering foot-sweep I perform to his delight. As we left the park I caught the sound of our owl, a lonely hollow noise that barely pierced the covered fields before reaching my ears. We both paused, Duncan cocked his head and I smiled. It made me think of a Mary Oliver poem I'd read recently:

Snowy Night
Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which,
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.
I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –
it was that distant. But, anyway,
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
and sweeter? Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried
over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night,
and I just stood there, listening and holding out
my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world,
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl,
whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow,
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning.

I love this world, but not for its answers. I love my dog for the same reason: his tremendous delight in not knowing but understanding nonetheless, a wise poet whose verse is writ with the silence of footfalls in the snow.

1 comment:

Christian said...

This poem spoke to me. Thanks for sharing. I know so many people who insist "on knowing whatever is knowable." I'm not one of those people! Mystery, acceptance, peace, and occasional frustration is all that I know. Mary Oliver gets it! So do you, Curt!