The Snow Man*
By Wallace Stevens
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
For most of my life I have had a love hate relationship with winter. Every year I fall into the same trap - eagerly awaiting the first snowfall only to scorn snow that comes in the deeper months of winter. However, as someone who has lived in the Northeast their whole life, harsh winters are an inevitable part of the year. You have to make the most of it with winter sports, time spent with family around the fire, and appreciating the beauty that comes with the snow and cold.
This poem by Wallace Stevens has always been one of my favorites and I think sums the life of a Northeasterner during the winter. It is easy to focus on the negative aspects of winter - it’s freezing, you spend less time outdoors, snow can be hazardous and cause many transportation issues, and many other annoying things. However, I think to be a true Northeasterner, you have to bravely face the weather and find the beauty in the “nothing that is.” To be truly one with winter, as Stevens asserts, is to appreciate the beauty that is in winter, in the trees that are “shagged with ice” and in the “distant glitter” of the white snow. Though winter can be seen as nothingness, as barren, there is a life to winter, a beauty and simplicity to its silence. Cold can often be the most beautiful.
*Copyright (c) 1923 Wallace Stevens
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