Photo Challenges: Time of Year (and poem)

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/time-of-year/

Can I do without your call?
Making arrangements to survive,
To ignore the rest of strife, freely given.
Can I do without your song?
The snow arrived unasked, unsummoned,
With the feeders empty and promises, also.
Can I do without your cheer?

Here in the gray land of between,
Where the silver bells of registers
Ring the advent of poverty, competition,
Fool hardy expectations of man, not beast.
Here I find you, still cheerful, still singing,
Your small talons grasping at the dirt,
Looking for that last pillbug, that last seed.

Your flock only humors me, 
As the camera whirls, clicks, 
spits and spats, leaving talon prints
as they settle for the night in snow.
They wait, they linger until sure
That the warmth of yesterday is gone
And the time to fly free and warm has arrived.

I cannot live without your song,
Your calling out of peace and forgiveness
All for the price of a seed or two.
I cannot live without the holly trees,
The magnolias that decorate with red seeds,
The pines silent except between creaks of wind. 
I need your cheer of simplicity.

fullsizeoutput_125

Dear Loreli, a response to the Alaskandispatch.com

Dear Laureli,
Here on the east coast just south of a small town built on marsh and bog called Washington DC., we’ve seen your love,and I the love I remember from a childhood in the middle of Minnesota. He watches over us, a bit confused at the way we use our cars and not the sleds of noble dogs and proud masters. He doesn’t hurt us, for we do enough of that on our own. But he has brought great beauty to us, and truth to us as well. A small boy had pushed him out of his way, forcing him to wander new paths.

The boy was angry, the child abused by the society that didn’t understand the harm of the warming of the water. He pushed rain and water inland and his temper was so hot, the snow could not find the path home. He melted the ice that the bears depend on for travel and hunting. He gathered islands of plastic that know no master and scatters them along beaches enraged at the waste and harm done to the wild.

Snow, did not know what to do. How could a child be so abused that he and his sister forgot the ways of their people? Having left their homes and trails, how could they find their way back.Had someone forgotten how the people should care for the child, for the environment the children need to grow strong and healthy.

Poor Snow. The ravens tried to guide him, but the snowy owls flew further south than before, stopping on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and waiting. The fish have greater ranges now, and in ranging, stir up the great sharks, the dolphin, the whales, the boats of people whose lives are on the water. Great Bald Eagles call to him, come and sit with us a while.

Our President makes time to play with his children, and sees Snow watching with sad eyes. We know the sea is advancing on you in Alaska. We sent a President whose eyes are opened to see what is being lost. He saw your elders telling of life in the cold, the wind, the snow. He saw the eager eyes of children listening with respect. He saw the wild salmon on their journeys from the sea, to bear their own children.

We have not been fair to Snow’s mother, Lady Nature. She has turned her eyes crossly on us, sending hurricane, sand storm and tropical storm. She has sent tornado after tornado and rains like waterfalls. We poison the air, the land, the sea. Men and woman who falsely worship the lesser God Greed have not done what needs doing to restore our protectors to our land. But these who worship Greed are not the only ones in action. I myself have family and friends who wish to send Snow back to you bearing gifts of climate stabilty. Those of us who believe in Snow, who would protect that mighty creature and your true love, have met around the world. Steps are being made that will hopefully turn back time, so that the weather patterns that push and pull the world against its, will can return to sanity.

I will look after Snow while he resides here in the east and speak to him as a friend of a friend. I will remind him of Artic water, blue ice and glaciers thousands of years old. I will tell him you wait for him, and will be glad when he returns. I will tell him your daughters and your sons understand that troubled world that has turned him astray. I will pass on the stories of my dogs who love to dance on his winds, my children, who like ancient dragons, find themselves both in and on that wind. I will write stories for him to take back to you so that you will know you are not alone, that we need you to have the Snow which helped shape you and encouraged you many times to become more than yourself.

I hope he listens. He is an old love of my childhood. I hope he will return to you soon.

Most sincerely,

Ann WJ White, whiteawj@mac.com,

(writer, poet, photographer from the East Coast and lover of all things Alaskan.)

Posted in response to Loreli in the Alaskandispatch.com

Blizzard of 2016

I never thought to see a blizzard warning in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I never thought to see it as a 100% Blizzard warning. But here it comes, Josiah. In Virginia we get ice, lots of ice. You see the government shut down with only an inch or two of snow, but the truth is the ice underneath causes such havoc that cars become objects of physical laws. They bash each other, smash each other, and sometimes they put you on TV showing your ineptitude. Yes, snow is coming.

The stores are sold out of everything. We had done our shopping earlier in the week, made sure I had the drugs I need to survive, and picked up the bag of salt or chemical melting agent a week before the weather channel could make up its mind. My niece, Jessie, sent us pictures of the Walmart with nothing on shelves three days prior to the snow warning. Silly Virginians. We’ll have tropical  storm powered gusts of wind. We’ll have cars abandoned along the highway. You won’t find me out there though. I have a book to read, embroidery to finish (the tapestry), hot chocolate (and peppermint schnapps), and a lot of writing to do.

I love the snow. I am looking forward to breaking our little plastic shovel on mounds of wet snow. Perhaps I’ll even make a snowman. I used to do snow angels. I was a fairly bad shot with a snowball. I tried to break a broom over my brother’s head when I was sweeping snow and he tried to take the broom away. I was in snow love mental exclusion mode. I just wanted to sweep. Dad was angry about the broom, not so much worried about my brother’s head and my ego. I think he collapsed in laughter when he went back inside. He laughed a lot when we were out of view. I think we should have had cameras, but no one would believe the simplicity of our life back then.

For Mother’s Day, several years ago, my darling husband bought me a pair of Welles. They even have the seal of the Queen and the Scottish National Arms. Keeping Up Appearances is one of my favorite shows. I know several women like Hyacinth. My husband dodges neighbors in fear for his immortal soul. I have the boots standing by, and I have Hyacinth recorded to watch this evening. We even have enough popcorn for a month. Yum.

Snow brings such quiet to the world. The intense silence is broken only by the idiots who are out shooting ducks in our protected wetlands. They can have a stand and shoot into the preserve, killing with a dozen shots aimed at a small bird that just wants to eat duckweed. I hate that. There is a stand just 6 feet off the shore of Leesylvania State Park that allows them to park at the lot, take the path to the stand, wait for low tide to walk out to the stand, and BLAM, there goes the neighborhood. The ducks are so beautiful. I hunt with a camera. I have no need for a weapon although I am fully trained by the USArmy. I found a wounded duck last winter when I was walking  the dogs. The cold of the Potomac River was all that was keeping the poor thing alive. It had been hit in the gut and still had escaped. Death was following  it. I tried my best to make it more comfortable, moving it out of sight into the long grass. I tried to put pressure on the wound but it was too much damage. The duck was gone by evening. I’m pretty sure the foxes found it. I found footprints that seemed to confirm it. I tried. Sometimes you fail in what you think is an imperative order from a higher place. I don’t mind hunters who are responsible and actually eat what they kill. They have to be one shot hunters, making it count, keeping numbers down of species like deer or the Canadian goose who, just like Minnesotans, moved south and decided they could stay all year. They’ve few natural enemies, just the foxes.

I’m off topic. Yesterday night, I found a friend that I have been looking for, for at least thirty years. I found her on Facebook. Life didn’t turn out according to our high and mighty plans when we were in college. It’s been an adventure. I wrote her about the oncoming blizzard. She lives in Northern Minnesota and is much more acclimated to snow.

The quiet is soothing. No one is going in and out of the house for now, so my husband can sleep all day. UPS will probably not be open tonight. The governor has already declared a State of Emergency. Sand trucks line the roads, their drivers asleep waiting for the 24 hours of panic that will ensue.

Three nights ago, my husband was on I95 when FedEx passed him. The driver had not secured the tandem trailer and it suddenly detached itself. FedEx zoomed  past, but the trailer fell in behind my husband’s set of trailers. He accelerated, but then a small car zoomed in front of him and hit the brakes. Fortunately that was the moment the trailer started to slow down, sending a firestorm of sparks across five lanes of traffic. But that isn’t the exciting night for him, two nights ago, in the muck of the ice, it took him from 5PM EST until 1:15AM to go from Dulles, Virginia, to Burtonsville, Maryland. That’s right outside of Baltimore, he got stuck on the ramp leading to the UPS building. He wasn’t alone. Drivers were passing trucks on the shoulder moving in and out, breaking and leaving no space for accidence. Eric said his truck jackknifed on the turn due to one of these cars. His truck was sent into the shop in December because his ABS wasn’t working. Nothing was done. Then the traction control went, and so did Eric, right off the metaphorical cliff. So he’s been driving a tractor that he red tagged. So here he was, knifed on the exit ramp, and we both learned some really cool things. A fire extinguisher will give you the same results as using salt and sand. The drivers were taking turns helping each other up the hill. It took Eric three hours without the Traction control. Finally, a salt and sand truck came up the ramp close enough to Eric that he benefitted greatly. He called at 1:15 to let me know he was still alive. I now call his tractor the Widow Maker. He’s not going to drive tonight, there is no sense when you can’t really get anywhere anyway.

You can feel the anticipation. The dogs keep running to the door and wanting out.” Sniff, Sniff, Yarf,”they call. They chase the shadows of squirrels around, focusing on laughing more than killing. They love the snow. Tigerlily will catch snowballs and Foxywiggles will bury herself in the snow and then explode back into the world. She tastes the snow flakes.

I grew up with Charlie Brown and tasting snowflakes is very important. I’ve done the magnifying glass bit. I learned that the reason snow is a noise suppressant is the spaces between the flakes, the hollow middle that when compressed loses its ability to shun noise. Snow, an open airy pile of beauty, will suppress noise because of the space between the “stars” or flakes to be more correct.

I used to have small children to play with in the snow. They are grown now and have little patience for an old woman who still dreams of being 8 years old. We lived next to the world’s meanest neighbor when I was a child. He was so scary that no one would go into his yard to retrieve a baseball. Our parents had warned us about being respectful at all times or else. So when it snowed, I would shovel his walk, but never would enter his backyard to do his back yard path. I would shovel the front and the back where the garages were. I never let them know I was doing it, I just did it, like a jack frost character’s nemesis. He finally caught me and laughed. He had just bought a snowblower and was looking forward to moving snow with great zeal. We worked out a deal. I could help on the steps and such, and he would use the snowblower on all the flat places. He was a lovely old man. We became friends and didn’t need to lose any more balls. The brothers of mine had become more interested in basketball. They moved down the alley to a garage with a hoop.

Minnehaha Falls freezes in the winter. The water sneaks small amounts of water underneath the ice and snow layers and the look of watching the water cascading underneath the gigantic icicles and churning its way back under the ice at the bottom and heading to the Minnesota River. The Mississippi boats that go up and down the river freeze into place waiting for the coast guard to come to their rescue. Traffic backs up on the Franklin Avenue Bridge and the Lake Street Bridge. Horns get honked politely. Dogs and children try sliding from any mound no matter how small or tall it is. We would walk on the snow ruins created by snowplows and human endeavors. We dreamed that we were polar explorers. And we had the view of all of the snow forts on the way to school, we could escape a rout by readjusting the path with boulders of snow from the street. We had ice balls, not just snowballs. It was our secret weapon.

My oldest brother was in charge of us. Four little ducklings all in a row, and we obeyed him. He has an air of authority about him, slightly Eeyore like. He had a wicked arm with a snowball and because he was so tall, he was the early warning system.

Our school had iron rails around the grassy spots, and in winter, the iron rail became the subject of bets. There was a pail of water just inside the door of the school kept there for the idiots who licked the rails and let their tongues get stuck. I must confess to licking the rail, but I never froze to it. I guess I was moving too quickly?

Snow. I left the curtain open in my bedroom this morning.  It’s open now. As I sit here doing all of the writing on my schedule I feel like a little girl waiting to use her boots in something besides puddles. Snowy days give me inspiration to write. They give me a force of calm and serenity which I lack daily. Snow lets me slow down and just be happy.

I’ve missed the snow that I grew up with, being from Minnesota and all. I miss watching the kids skate on park rinks and frozen rivers. Last winter I was in Minnesota for a party in honor of a woman who was dying of cancer. I got snowed in like I always do. I watched the skaters on the Mississippi up in St. Cloud. I had no camera with me to catch the moment, but the lights on the rink, clearly marked as a safe zone, have stayed with me. So much energy being consumed. Hats, mittens, scarves, hockey gear, and more, all a vital part of the vision of happiness to me. The fields harvested and the bales of hay covered with white as the fog sneaks in. The barns with their yellow glow of warm calling to milk cows, it’s a wonder I ever left the state. I was smitten by the idea of a world calling to me out there. I think that wanderlust might be a virus.

It still hasn’t started snowing. I catch my breath each time I look out of the window, hoping, waiting. I’m like a little kid wanting that miracle of snow, needing it. Sitting on an uncomfortable cold chair in a classroom that is gradually warmed by the breath of all the students hoping for snow and early dismissal. I’d always list the homework for the day on the blackboard. “No excuses, if you don’t do your homework, it won’t snow tonight.” And then the first snow flake arrives. There is a flurry of pencils noting the homework, kept simple because playing in the snow is more important. Assignment books are initialed and the world fidgets. Squirming and turning their heads made me just aim the desks at the window and have done with it. Creative writing time. “You are a snowflake, please, tell me of your life.”

It was cold, windy and cloudy when the word came down. Here, today, snow. But last night the skies were clear and I could watch the moon travel from east to west through my house. Almost a full moon, but brightly lighting the rooms as I wandered with insomnia. Stars as big as a marble, blinking 5 billion years ago. Morse code? Aliens might love snow. Heaven knows, our climate needs all the water it can get in dry places. I wonder if aliens would understand that a snowball fight is just as ingrained as finding a stick and pretending it is a sword or rifle. Rocks on the ground beg to be picked up and thrown by small boys. They can’t help it. Ingrained instinct and environmental influences make sure the aggressive side of our nature reinforce itself in each generation.

I am wordy today, and off topic or on a new topic, I find it hard to focus. Snow.

I’m just waiting.

Ann

 

My Snow

This morning the sun shown on a grey receding cloud, and the winds didn’t arrive. I’m sure they will later, but for now, my small dogs are not pretending to be kites when they go for an outing. My garden is finally, and officially, dead. Well, some of it will be back in the spring. I love perennials, they are repetitive, tough, colorful, changing and much less work. I water them, feed them and ignore them. That’s also my recipe for orchids and african violet care.

The annuals of winter are frosted leaves on a forest floor, snowflakes (if we ever get so lucky), and neighborhood children still in the snowsuit phase. The laughter they give sounds like pearls, or tinkling icicles, or even perhaps, silence. Silence of a winter fog makes the world shake. People rush for their covers, but not me. I like to stand outdoors with the wind in my face, a sweater, sometimes even my shoes on. It’s bracing, something some will never understand. I grew up in Minnesota. Winter was magic. It was pure, untracked (until school kids and dogs created trails), and I felt at home. The cold has always been a sign of peace for me. Trouble goes indoors, fighting takes too much energy, and there is hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane.

I like the end of football. The pause before baseball is only momentary, but that pause gave me skating, sliding, and skiing. I watch other people have fun doing these things these days. The contemplation of the rules of winter never bothered me when I was young. Coat, hat, gloves, scarf, hood, layers of layers beneath the overcoat, lined boots and double socks were my attire back then. San Francisco was tempting wonder which had all of these things within a few hours drive. Virginia was an even greater surprise. My first winter in Virginia, it was in the 50s, like this year. There was no ice, snow, bracing air and I wondered that there was a place on earth like it. Then came several winters of note, two with the high mounds along the community roads that reminded me of snow forts, snow ball fights, walking the ridge to see if we had to touch the pavement on the way to school.

So, what did I do for Virginia snow? I shoveled sidewalks for fun. I was one of the first out the door, if it was light enough with a broom. I actually had to find a shovel to buy. It was bright orange plastic, easily shattered and didn’t live long. It was a needed winter sacrifice. It took me until April to find a good sturdy shovel that would last.

My husband hates snow if he has to go out. He drives a truck, with two trailers usually. He can plow through the snow, but it is amazing at how many small cars rush to get in front of him only to panic because they can’t see, found ice or found fear. Huge brown truck, itty bitty cars. SUVs are worse. They think they can outrun and out perform anyone else on the road. Some are 4 wheel, but not all. They forget that for an SUV to stay on the road, all four feet should be on the ground. I meant four tires, but you get the picture. I loved the old commercial of the “living” SuuVEE giving instructions on how to survive. I loved teaching when there was snow. Feet up, fire lit, eyes on a new book or grading papers that all too often I had fallen behind on. I kept the TV on a music channel. My boisterous children went out to play and returned an hour later for board games, cardboard box castles, and dragon attacks. The dogs were the dragons, my daughter a princess of the castle, and my son a knight in shining armor. My daughter saved the dragon, the castle and my son laughed. He always laughed. He was golden sunshine, but my daughter, she still is her own mystery. Snow.

I have so much to do to be ready for snow. It’s a good thing it isn’t in the forecast yet. I have the removal of the holiday decorations, cleaning, sorting, throwing and napping. The naps are most important because I dream of winter. My past is filled with winter memories. My father leaving at 3 am to make ice for the city children to skate on. It had to be freshened every night to create a safe place with no toe holds dug in. My first ice skates that had been in the warming trailer for over a year with no one claiming them. You rolled up socks and put them in the toes so they wouldn’t slide on your feet. Sliding on ice in the street on the way to school. Stomping through slush that made me feel like a giant. My high school hockey team making the playoffs one year and the band going to play to support them. My mouthpiece and horn never did warm up completely. Walking to college classes with a -20 degree F wind. The campus closing for an entire two days because of 30 inches arriving with wind and a bad attitude.

I’ve been told I live in an alternate universe from the rest of the world. That’s okay. I was always a bit of a dreamer. No, not true, I was always a dreamer. Winter didn’t require friends to make me happy, it just did. It still does. Sleeping dogs and a feisty cat keep me company when I am alone. One catches snowballs. One tunnels. Frankie, the cat, lifts her toes as she walks onto the deck and turns with a sigh of disgust. She doesn’t like cold feet. I lift her, hold her close, and she and I watch the birds. First thing in the morning is the bird food. Then the cat and dogs find their feasts in ceramic bowls I made with love for old friends now memories. They like the bowls.

The sun will set before I am ready, tonight. I’ll keep an eye on the weather channel. I’m hoping for a winter wonderland.

Birth of the Snow Legend

The worst of the snow,
balled together and sticking
to twisted twigs,
gave the illusion of a monster,
a snow monster.

Given life and breath
under icy skies,
it lifted its frozen eyes
to a landscape cruel and seasonal,
a tundra.

Abominable and frosty,
it thought of the eternal winter
as it hoped Spring
would not be sprung upon it.
A tender wish.

Fables would grow mentioning
a creature of delicate habits,
ferocious only when seen.
Teased, it would strike back
and stay alone.

Naughty Snow

Naughty snow knocking on my pavement,
glazing it with ice, seeking to thrill me with a ride
when I try to shovel the mountain of snow.
I’ll slide like a five year old in new rubber boots.
I’ll slide like an eight year old using an old cardboard box.
I’ll hide in my snow fort camouflaged by my white hair.
No one will seek out an old lady, bent with exertion.
I’ll make a snowman, a snow angel, a snow wall with
snow flowers, the world of white, bright even at dark.
Naughty old lady who never bothered to grow up.