I know it’s a small fraternity, but I’m one of
those who actually loves cold weather. So November and December are my
kind of months: gunmetal-gray skies, hard frosts, smoky breaths, tangy
wood smoke, and crunchy crystalline coatings over lawns and fields. It’s
the season for reflection, when nature clears out the year’s growth from
trees and shrubs, giving us the longer view, the clearer view, to vistas
blocked during the green months.
The end of the calendar year is also a great time to
move inside, with family and friends, and celebrate the rich array of
blessings we enjoy as Virginians and as Americans. After Isabel’s wrath
in September, many have no doubt added electric service to their list of
counted blessings at Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas gatherings.
As has been our custom for the last several years, in
this year-end issue we’d like to share with your family some of our
favorite passages about the season. This year, we’re sharing passages
about the cold seasons and their holy rites from some of our favorite
nature writers. We hope you enjoy this look at the natural world during
this sacred, special season.
The supper smoke is coming blue out of the
chimney, and the window in the kitchen shows yellow. The house looks so
incredibly cozy and desirable in the midst of this fiercely beautiful and
merciless landscape; it is enough to tear your soul out by the roots. Into
my mind comes the realization that here I am, now, out of all time and all
space, here in this place. And I say to myself, This is my house. My
woman. A baby. Two babies. Simple things like that.
Green Mountain Farm, 1948.
Before we reached the far edge of the home pasture,
it began to snow, big, puffy flakes that nudged each other with a swishing
sound like a whisper in the silence. It was still snowing half an hour
later when I went out to bring an armload of fireplace wood from the
woodshed, but the temperature had dropped almost 10 degrees and the snow
had been reduced to pellets that hissed in the wind that came whistling
around the corner of the house ... And I knew that I was one with the wind
and the stars and the earth itself. December was all around me, simple as
the glittering breath from my lungs, complex as the snowflake, and I was a
part of the mystery, the wonder, and the awe. I was aware of the wholeness
and the holiness of life, the reason beyond all my reasoning.
“Winter and the Holiness,” from Countryman: A
Summary of Belief, 1965.
Even when I was very young, Christmas was a time
of memory. It stretched back across the years, filled with all the
kaleidoscopic rememberings of other Christmases, always moving us close
together in a special time of loving and being loved. It reached back even
beyond my own birth. I could see earlier Christmases in the way Mother
hung a favorite, faded ornament on the tree, in the way Father’s face
softened when he began to sing a Christmas carol in Norwegian. Always one
of my brothers would say, “Remember the time the dog knocked the tree
down?” I couldn’t remember, but I could see it. It became so much a
part of Christmas that one year I beat everyone else and said it myself.
No one realized that I only remembered through their remembering.
—Ben Logan, “Season Within a Season,”
from The Land Remembers, 1975.
By October’s end or early November we have checked
out the heating, winterized the car, tucked up the house, switched
clothing, and pulled up the garden. Now we are permitted to wait. One
night we will wake conscious of a soft advent, quietness dropping from the
air; we will gaze into darkness to watch the great white onset of winter.
We will rise in the morning, virtue’s reward, in a warm house to don
warm clothing, and to start a car that will start. The most foresighted
among us will even have stationed snow shovels and pails of salt by the
kitchen door. Sigh ... It helps to remember that winter is ominous of
—Donald Hall, “October’s Omens,” from
Here at Eagle Pond, 1990.