Monday, January 11, 2010

"One must have a mind of winter"

Yesterday we woke up to an Arctic freeze, and today we're back to an ordinary Tennessee chill. When you live where the winters are mild it's easy to forget the special beauty that bitter cold creates. An ice-blue sky, glittering snow, the perfect silence that falls when it's so cold that no animals stir--these are rare pleasures for us.

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.

Text from
Jay Keyser analyzes the poem here.

Garden under Snow, Paul Gauguin, 1879


jmcleod76 said...

I just posted this poem on our Zen Center's news blog a couple of weeks ago.

Winter is beauitful in a way that startles me into breathless wonder (and not just because the cold stings my lungs and burns my nasal cavities). There's no dawn quite like the dawn of tree limbs bowed under the weight of glittering snow. But I have a long way to go before achieving the winter-mind Stevens descibes.

Luckily, I'm not alone among my spiritual ancestors. He may just be detaailing the facts of the situation, but I detect a bitching tone in Han Shan's namsake poem:

"The trail to Cold Mountain is faint
the banks of Cold Stream are a jungle
birds constantly chatter away
I hear no sound of people
gusts of wind lash my face
flurries of snow bury my body
day after day no sun
year after year no spring."

chayaruchama said...

It doesn't get much more glorious than this...
Thank you two;-)

Bozo said...

A lovely way to start a cold morning. I'll be more observant of the chill today.

BitterGrace said...

Just between you and me, Jaime, I have always imagined Han Shan as a crabby, complaining old man. A wise, crabby, complaining old man...

I think I'm learning to share your love of winter, Chaya. Trying anyway.

Bozo, what do the horses think of the unusual cold?