I’ve been to Newcastle and back today. I rose at 5, and walked to the station through yet another blizzard. Abandoned Christmas trees whirled around the empty Edinburgh streets like wintery tumbleweeds. On the train, the sun rose revealing masses of falling snow, white and grey across the border. At Newcastle, the station platform was knee-deep. The city was virtually empty of traffic and very still. Lone pedestrians wobbled around the streets like confused zombie skittles. My walk to work was much slower than usual — at times it was strangely like walking through sand — but it was accompanied by a curious silence which I rather enjoyed. I left early, was lucky on the return journey, and caught a train that had been hideously delayed further south. Out of the windows I saw kids sledging; snow covered allotments; brown jacob sheep stark against a white horizon. The snowy fields flickered from blue to gold in the last of the sunlight. Back in Edinburgh, some of the snow had turned to a sort of grey powder, and some to a sort of black mush, but for the last mile and a half of my familiar path home it was still white and deep and crunchy. The day ended as it had begun — walking through the snow’s tremendous quiet. Amidst the trudging, and the two long train journeys, and the assumed hassle, and everyone else’s manifest irritation with the weather, its been an oddly serene sort of day. I kept thinking of Wallace Stevens’ mind of winter. Perhaps, like his watcher/ listener, I’ve been cold a long time.

The Snow Man
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.

21 thoughts on “a mind of winter

  1. Wonderful poem, Kate. Your day sounds perfect. Wallace Stevens writes so well about the cold – ‘Not ideas about the thing but the thing itself’ is one of my favourite poems and is, of course, about our emergence from the winter at the other end of the season… still a way away, I think!


  2. I feel the same way about winter. I was just telling my husband the other day that the hikes that I love the most are the ones when we get all bundled up in winter. I love the way the snow and cold and long shadows makes things more magical. You can easily see evidence of an owl swooping down to catch a meal or squirrel tracks racing from tree to tree.


  3. What a perfectly apt poem. I love your description of walking through the snow and agree with your observation that there is something incredibly quiet about snow. It is like a giant, sonic insulator, I think… dimming the sounds of the world in its white, blanketing silence.


  4. I love to visit your blog, although it does make me yearn desperately for my family in Scotland … sometimes, Canada is just too far away. They are also in Edinburgh and then down in Newcastle, but mostly in the Borders in Eyemouth. So, when I see you tramping across the moors, or on a hike through the heathers, it makes me feel just that little bit closer … thank you.


  5. I think I have discovered a new author. What a perfect description of the time when snowy weather is most perfect. I love to stand off under the trees when night skiing and watch the sky. The cold penetrates my clothes, but after awhile you can forget that and embrace the sounds of silence (and yes that is straight from my favorite band, but describes it to perfectly for me to come up with something else).


  6. Just happy to find a favorite poem here….but I am in Chicago, Illinois and winter/snow/cold are part of the life cycle here. Weather shapes us in subtle ways.


  7. The image of Christmas trees as tumbleweeds is going to stay with me for a while. Enjoy your wintry landscape and remember these days in about 6 months when you’re swatting the flies away at the allotment:)


  8. I thought of you as I walked all the way to work today (rather than catching the bus as I usually do). I am lucky that in the Midlands we have enough snow to make everything look different and interesting, but no howling blizzards to make life difficult – no matter what the news has to say about ‘travel chaos’! I do like that poem – I must have a mind of winter too, snow only excites me. (Or maybe I’ve always lived in well-populated areas in the south!)


  9. I just love the snow – I love the beauty and the silence and the way it magnifies all the best things around – i am sorry – i am not the least bit poetic but totally revel in this sort of weather and all the emotions that it stirs up – the best part of it is that everyone pulls together and looks out for each other – we have lived in this street for three years and we have had more chat from our neighbours in the last three days than ever before – wonderful!

    and you can sit and knit all day………..



  10. Same feelings here Kate; I don’t get the hysteria over the weather either, in fact, yesterday and today were rather fabulous days for me. I zipped around the countryside, I even saw a fabulous pheasant and snapped away like it was the first time I saw Prestbury (Cheshire). It all felt very serene, like you say, none of the drama beamed by the media for me.

    Welcome to the comments Kathleen! Question for you: where did you get Kate’s hate for Anthro from? Did I miss the rant??? Oh no!!!

    All the best!


  11. Kate, I can no longer resist. I love your blog. I’ve been lurking about for about a year and this last post made me think so much about New York blizzards–I love how they slow everything down and take over all normal activity.The quality of your writing, analysis, pictures and the quality of life (delicious) you share is inspiring to me. Onward to a couple of questions when you get a chance:
    1) I am curious about your Anthropolgie hatred, I have an eerie attraction to some of their things despite knowing that their pricing is rediculously high and disgusting. The quality of their clothing is hideous no worries I am not slight enough for any of it to fit me nor would I pay what they ask for it. I am curious if you are up for a rant.
    2)I want to make Owl sweater but as a cardigan, I saw that some folks had done that. My knitting skills are not up to figuring that out myself. Do you know of any links that may be helpful in that regard? Thanks. KPH


leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.