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Winter Calls Us Back to the Questions

As winter settles in on us here in Wisconsin — and, I’m told, across a large swatch of the U.S. — I really should not risk offending the weather gods.

But I’m with Carl Reiner who said, “A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” I’m also with Roy Blount who said, “The winter you people have in the upper Midwest is not weather. It’s divine retribution.”

But good poets can wave the magic wand of words over something nasty and turn it into something lovely and full of meaning. Here’s a Mary Oliver poem that helped me last night, as I went out in zero weather to help move four inches of snow off our driveway and sidewalk.

First Snow
by Mary Oliver

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning …

(Excerpted from American Primitive. Read the full poem here.)

Mary’s right, of course. Winter calls us back to “why, how, whence such beauty and what the meaning,” and it was truly beautiful out last night.

But as far as I’m concerned, Carl and Roy are right, too!

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