Friday, December 11, 2009

Snow Hush

"Then all is silent and the snow falls
Settling soft and slow.
The evening deepens and the grey
Folds closer earth and sky
The world seems shrouded, far away.

Its noises sleep, and I as secret as
Yon buried stream plod dumbly on and dream."

The last two stanzas of a poem entitled "Snow". I read it last evening, snugged down in the chaise, waiting for Christopher to stop rearranging his burp cloths in his crib and settle to sleep. Outside the air grew steadily colder and despite our good windows I could feel its fingers trying for cracks, a bitter cold left as a dubious gift after a squally day.

First photo: "Too much snow", Ithaca, NY.  Photo courtesy ForeverDigital.

As I read, I took an interior walk down quiet roads that I hope aren't too changed with the passing of 30-odd years, and I remembered each view, memorized with love and daily repetition. Then I wrote it down as a comment on Rebecca's blog, and realized I'd written a prose ode, or maybe an elegy. So here it is, as much so that I can go that way again as to invite you to come along.

I remember quite viscerally walking home from school as it snowed,
the hemlocks drooping with the weight,
the very occasional car muffled to near silence by the whitened road,
the crystal tinkling of icy water at the waterfall next the little bridge,
where the flow had built ice caverns and pinnacles for me to dream over,
and as I came closer to home -- it was a long walk --
sometimes the bells from the carillon on Cornell's campus,
rung by a student practicing,
sounding like the tower had gone under a blanket,
and then suddenly like they were just around the bend.
I miss those walks,
and cold as I would get,
generally I went at a mosey.
Why hurry when life was so beautifully malencholy?

Second photo: Taughannock Falls, December 8, 2005. Photo courtesy Alexey Sergeev. Third photo: McGraw Tower, Cornell University. Photo courtesy ForeverDigital

A postscript: Browsing around photos of my hometown, it is reassuring to know that things haven't changed overmuch. A big thank you to Alexey Sergeev of Texas A&M and ForeverDigital on Flickr for recording some of the places I love most in all the world but haven't been able to return to.

About Taughannock Falls: It's up Cayuga Lake some miles from Ithaca, and is giant, its spray dampening your hair hundreds of feet away, the tallest straight fall east of the Mississippi, they say. My little falls, passed every day on my walk down Hanshaw Road, was maybe six feet high, a fairy cascade over a miniature shale cliff, that murmured under a little bridge just feet away. At a sudden drop below our home, a perhaps 75-foot fall, "my" little creek, in which my sister and I played endlessly, spilling off a deep lip into a tight dell,  just past the edge of what used to be Irene Castle's mansion.

A five-minute walk from home? Creek after creek, fall after fall after fall, large and small, views down utterly dizzying drops of 400 or more feet, a suspension bridge that swayed when you had the courage to jump on it, another gorge-spanning bridge with a pierced floor to let the rain through, and you had better not look down, or risk being rooted to the spot, whitewater so far, far, far down, a gentle shake, a growling over the gridded bridge floor, as a car went by. Sometimes part of Cayuga Heights Road clinging to the hillside took a notion to visit the valley floor and the road would cave a little at the outer edge. Carl Sagan built his home on top of a gorge-view mausoleum. And floating above in the evening, the lighted clock face of McGraw Tower ringing the passage of time, its bells sometimes singing songs. Have a listen.

And read the rest of  "Snow", written long ago by an Archibald Lampman and sung much more recently by Lorena McKennitt, on Rebecca's blog at

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

This is lovely, Natalie...Happy Christmas, sweet friend...