Wintery Words

Verlyn Klinkenborg writes a column for the New York Times. In the piece that appeared last week, he wrote about the wind in a way I thought many of you could relate to:
“By evening, even the horses were weary. They had been blown about all day as though they weighed a few ounces instead of a thousand pounds apiece. A tree cracks in the distance and they trot, alarmed, across the pasture. A whirlwind of leaves twists past, and they race away from it. The corner of a tarp gets loose, and off they go. They transmit this anxious energy to me, undiluted. I prefer the way the pigs and chickens react. In a high wind, the pigs snooze together at the back of their house, straw pulled over their heads. The chickens sit on their perches, knitting and doing their accounts.”
The part about the horses described well how my two were acting today as snow fluttered down and the wind rattled the barn door and scraped the trees across the tin roof.


Klinkenborg’s description of animals and the landscape is a talent that a covet. Maybe someday, if I put in enough hours writing, I’ll be able to write paragraphs like his. I guess we all have our own voice, our own writing style. I don’t want to exactly copy someone elses. But I do admire such talent.

These columns for the New York Times have been published for quite some time. Some are compiled into a book called “The Rural Life” and are arranged by the seasons.

There is a chapter called “December” in which Klinkenborg writes,
“In late December I feel an almost painful hunger for light. The open woods, bereft of leaves, and the snow itself feel like a kind of appeasement, a way of making amends to my eye for the almost grudging tread of the sun across the sky. That hunger is what makes the detail of the natural world so precious now. Pale green lichen on a tree trunk has all the power of a daylily in bloom.”
This makes me think of the photos I took recently trying to focus in on the details of the trees in contrast to the general brownness that is our current landscape. Well, was our current landscape anyway. There will be a new white world to greet me tomorrow morning when I let the horses back out of the barn and feed them their morning hay.
The reason I’m rambling on about Klinkenborg is that I sometimes will take a sentence written by a writer I admire and build my own piece out of it as a kind of writing exercise. And that’s what I did today with a sentence from Klinkenborg’s December essay. If you like to write, why not give it a try yourself?
“In late December I feel an almost painful hunger for light”
Not the Energy Star compact fluorescent light that allows me to make my way through my shadowy house or the greenish glare that makes us all look so pasty and sick at work. No, I want the full fledged, need my Ray-Bans, ricocheting up from the whiteness of the snow, sunshine.

The only opportunity to break my fast from sunlight during the week is if I venture outside of work at lunchtime, a daring experience given the cold and I’ve become much too budget conscious to eat out anyways. Weekends are the best opportunity to get out and gather up some vitamin D, that is, unless there is so much cloud cover that you really aren’t sure if it’s truly day.

I long to turn on every light in the house and crank up the heat in a vain attempt to emulate a beach house in Cozumel. Alas, only one light is on, which is in the room where I sit, and I am dressed in thermal underwear, turtleneck, sweater, covered with a blanket, and wearing my fake Ugg boots, trying to stay warm with the thermostat set to 60, which is warm compared to what it’s set to at night and when I’m not home.

Maybe I need to learn to embrace the darkness during these winter months by enjoying the twinkling rainbow of lights that frame houses and trees as I drive towards home. And feel the safe, snugness of my house as the wind clangs the loose gate outside my window and howls as if imitating a pack of wolves.

I turn on the outside light and watch the snow gyroscope in the intruding glow, the wind lifting and circling the flakes, making it look like they will never be allowed to touch the ground.

snow falling

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  1. I echo Lori’s comment about the horse photo. What nervous energy they emit!

    Thanks for making me aware of a writer who’s new to me. I’m going to check out his work – it sounds like the kind of stuff that I’d love to be able write.

    I also have to keep repeating what I’ve said before. You’re a talented writer. Keep after it. I love reading your prose!

  2. Beautiful Maery…and the photos are so great!
    I have to try my hand at that line later.
    Yep…we are forced some darkness aren’t we. If it wasn’t so cold the patio would look inviting.

  3. Love,Love the horse pics. Stay warm. We have flurries at 18 degrees and 45mph winds today. Not a nice day for chores. Great post girl.

    Have a wonderfully blessed day!!!

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