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One Must Have A Mind of Winter

January 25, 2013

A few years back, in some crazy attempt at reconciling myself to my most-hated season, I bought a book of poems call A Mind of Winter: Poems for a Snowy Season. Oh, you know, it had an introduction by Donald Hall and pretty little woodcuts by Thomas Nason, but I began to doubt this tiny tome would ever help me make peace with the extreme cold as soon as I walked in my back door and took it out of the shopping bag. The house was too chilled for the slow-going process of reading poetry. And it was too dark to read at all, meaning why not just pour a glass of Cabernet and watch TV? Except that I've never really known how to turn on my TV. Without Netflix I would be completely pop-culture illiterate.

But as it happens, the next film up in my Netflix queue is "Winter Light." Don't know "Winter Light"? It's a brooding, black-and-white Bergman film from 1963 about a pastor who is a) very cold, b) undergoing a vocational crisis and c) having to deal with parishioners. Why did I put this in my Netflix queue when, apart from the gender of the pastor, I have pretty much lived out this scenario a few times over? I dunno. Because I love Bergman. Because I can't shake the church. Because I've seen the movie before and I can't resist repetition. And because...well, because I think I might have a mind of winter.

Not that I want one. And in case you don't know where the phrase comes from, it's a quote from Wallace Stevens--along with Bergman, another happy-making artist of a man (oh, and I'm being sarcastic about the "happy-making") whose poetry tends to make me think about self-piercing my own ear again (having already done that in my early twenties) or trying to re-read Kierkegaard. If you read Stevens' poem, "The Snow Man," from which the line comes, you do best to ignore the three-line, five stanza structure and read it as it simply should have been written (and would have been, no doubt, if Stevens had written it out-of-doors and in the winter).

Read that way, here's what you get:
        One must have a mind of winter.....
        and have been cold a long time.....
        not to think of any misery in the sound of the wind......
        which is the sound.....for the listener, who listens in the snow,
        And, nothing himself, beholds
        Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

See how much I've shaved off? A full nine lines! But it works completely! It's still depressing. It's still utterly Stevens-esque. But it's shorter.

And so I've decided that'swhat it means to have a mind of winter. Let's shorten this damn season ("Winter Light" is one of Bergman's shorter films) and move on toward mud season, the early arrival of the Easter bunny and the end of having to pretend that we truly and earnestly do like kale.

Let spring come!

 

 


 

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I'm a writer, yoga teacher, Lutheran pastor, and music nerd living in New York. I find a feast in daily living - most days, anyway - and write about it here. 

Finalist for the 2017 Chautauqua Prize!
The frank and funny story of a church-geek girl who spent twenty years in the ecclesiastical trenches as a Lutheran pastor, preaching weekly words of hope she wasn’t sure she even believed.