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QUINTESSENCE

Poem of the Air

SNOW FLAKES (Birds Of Passage. Flight The Second)

Out of the bosom of the Air
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.

- by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There is something about Christmastime, and winter's long blue nights, that sing the lament of the year's end. Especially here in the north and in the mountains, where seasons are as distinct as spices. Nature is now absent in her abundance: what remains is the skeletal architecture of what has been, and what might be, once the seasons turn. The landscape stands in the hollow grief of what is not. The benevolence of life has fled with the geese on wing, and we feel the hard and frozen earth turn within and away from us. The melancholy note in so many Christmas melodies, the lone light that shines in a pool of yellow from a dark house, the snow quiet and undisturbed in the fields...these are the bookends of our rush through the year. The frenzy of growing, constructing, creating and promoting the things we do in the cities we live in comes to a kind of stand-still. We tally the year, reflect on the days past, plan those to come. Outside the winds blow, the snow falls. We build a fire, our instincts guiding us to stay in, to stay together and warm, to wait out the inhospitable winter for the warming sun rays of spring.

I am drawn to the powerful wisdom in winter's instinct to draw within. To accept and embrace the quiet solitude of winter's dove gray skies, the pink brush of sunset that has walked the horizon without warmth or luminescence. In the quiet are thoughts we are otherwise too full of noise to hear. In the darkness we rest. With one another we realize the joy and warmth of family. In winter we release what has been, release and grieve our misfortunes and losses, we burnish and repair the good for the work to come. In winter, as the poet pens, "the troubled heart doth make in the white countenance confession." Absolution. Comfort.

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