With fall transitioning into winter, Maine’s landscapes are becoming cloaked in white. Depending upon geography and elevation, varying amounts of snow sit in our woods and on our fields. Some waters are frozen over, though many are still open with deep-blue, almost black water lying open beneath cold skies. Soon, most all freshwater streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes will be locked in ice.
At this time of snow and open waters, I want to share two striking poems employing the imagery of open water swallowing falling snow. Both, like our salty bays and soon-to-be covered lakes are both dark yet powerfully beautiful.
The first and older of the two poems is by one of 19th century America’s most notable poets, William Cullen Bryant. In one stanza of his poem, The Snow-Shower, he writes:
Here delicate snow-stars, out of the cloud,
Come floating downward in airy play,
Like spangles dropped from the glistening crowd
That whiten by night the milky way;
There broader and burlier masses fall;
The sullen water buries them all–
Flake after flake–
All drowned in the dark and silent lake.
The poem’s entirety expands on his contemplation of snow falling in open water and its symbolism to life’s finite nature. This same early season snow over open water symbolism is used by Elizabeth Tibbetts, a poet from Hope, Maine. In her poem entitled, Snow, the last few lines explore snow falling outside the window of a nursing-home contained woman with a now inaccessible home on one of Maine’s numerous islands:
…She looks out from a bed the size of a dinghy.
Beyond the lit tree, beyond town, open water
accepts snow silently and, farther out,
the woods behind her house receive the snow
with a faint ticking of flakes striking needles
and dry leaves—a sound you would not believe
unless you’ve held your breath and heard it.
Both of these poems intimate snow’s emotional connection to the cycles of life. Both are tremendous examples of the power of experiencing nature and nature’s unique ability to reflect meaning and inspire appreciation for life.