Posts Tagged ‘Snow’

‘Samhain’ a Celtic Winter poem, and some thoughts on the season.

December 16, 2011

This season, the start of Winter, has always held a lot of emotion.  I love Winter, and  heating with a wood burning stove hasn’t yet dulled my enthusiasm for the season.  Perhaps it’s the quiet that falls at dusk, that thin, pale veil of mystery just before the black of night when the huge live oaks and pecans are the only ‘structures’ between you and the rest of the world.

For me it is the beauty and wonder of a season that slides from the crisp Autumn to the unearthy beauty of Winter.  Nature holds the key for me, and especially the deep silence and stillness of Winter.  

There is a deeper reason of this season for me. It calls to contemplation, to slowing down the daily routines, to read, to walk amongst the brittle leaves and especially to the silence that surrounds  like a blanket of peace. This is a spiritual season, without the trappings of religion.

Christmas is the last hurrah of noise and color before the real message of this mysterious season appears.  A well-running woodstove, a blanket, a book of Robert Frost, cats snuggling around  and those huge, silent trees outside, the beauty of their exposed black limbs against a gun-metal sky with the promise of snow:  this is the comfort and promise of Winter, that allows or enforces even, this solitude, this time of contemplation and renewal.

Lady Nyo


Dark mysterious season,

when the light doesn’t

quite reach the ground,

the trees shadow puppets

moving against the gray of day.

I think over the past year

praying there has been a

kindling in my soul,

the heart opened, warmed

and the juiciness of life is

more than in the loins–

a stream of forgiveness

slow flowing through the tough fibers

not stopper’d with an underlying


but softened with compassion.

This season of constrictions,

unusual emptiness,

brittle like dried twigs

desiccated by hoar frost

just to be endured.

I wrap myself in wool and

watch the migrations–

first tender song birds which harken

back to summer,

then Sandhill cranes,

legs thin banners

streaming behind white bodies,

lost against a snowy sky.

They lift off to a middling cosmos,

while I, earth-bound,

can only flap the wings of my shawl,

poor plumage for such a flight,

and wonder about my own destination.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010, 2011  from “White Cranes of Heaven”, published by, 2011

Let It Snow….Part II

January 9, 2010

The Snow.

Well, we got it.  All of one inch.  You would have thought it was the Second Coming of Christ the way the weatherfolk were predicting this event.

And it’s not that snow is exactly unknown in Atlanta or Georgia.  March 1 last year we had 6 inches in a lovely day where the city streets and landscape were turned into a fairyland.

So with one week’s advance notice, the populace was set into a frenzy of milk/bread/beer/chips buying.

Though the amount of snow was just pretty…the temperatures of 16 degrees and lower, combined with strong winds caused havoc here.

Though there was no need for massive snow plowing, the black ice apparently took its toll on roads.  One county had over 300 auto accidents in one day/night.  It was slick out there and even walking down the driveway was tricky.

But the dogs loved it…or most of them.  Our 15 year old Husky, Charlie did…and snorted and pranced in the snow like a sled dog.  He’s never seen a sled, the Deep South not needing them, though we do have two red sleds just in case.

Our big mook of a shepherd/Dane looked worried and kept picking up his big feet every time he touched the cold stuff.  The golden didn’t like it much either.  Our English Field Spaniel, who is a rather odd dog, thinks he’s a cat….growled at the snow. Only the Husky gloried in his natural environment and kept barking advice from the snow, trying to get someone to play with him.

The cats were much smarter about the weather.  They meowed to go out, saw the white stuff and ran back in fast….back to their beds.

With the in and out of the dogs all day, the hauling in more and more firewood from the stack, the bitter cold (it didn’t hit 28 for a high today), well, it saps your strength.  It takes a lot of energy to stay warm.

The darker side of all of this are the tragedies across Georgia.  Our neighbor walked out his kitchen and locked himself outside.  He suffered a stroke three years ago, and the cold almost got him for good.  He was too weak to call for attention, but managed to throw some sticks of wood at the neighbor’s house.  Luckily,  this neighbor was home, which was unusual.  He thought it was a cat outside, and being a cat lover, he was concerned with the frigid weather.  He saw our neighbor and raced over there, saving his life.

People here don’t do well in the cold.  They make fires in chimneys that haven’t worked for years, they burn candles for light when the power goes off and what happens is usually full scale damage to life and property.

We have never had an extended amount of cold of this duration.  It’s not that it’s just cold, it’s unusual.  We don’t usually get 14-16 degree weather overnight and into the days, where even the sun doesn’t do much good.  And these temps have been going on for almost two weeks now.  They are going to continue well into next week.  This is apparently, already a record.

Pipes are bursting all over Atlanta, even parts of the expressway has flooded from some underground means (though they can’t yet figure out where it’s coming from)  making it very dangerous for drivers.

I love winter, but the effects of weather of this extreme takes a lot from people.  I am amazed that our one wood stove heats this house.  Of course, it doesn’t heat the closed off rooms, but the way my husband built and rebuilt this house makes  for the rest of the house heat-able. The second story is open to a large balcony and the stove pipe from the first floor runs 26 feet high.  That is a lot of pipe  exposed to the air and it does a good job of heating most of the upstairs rooms.

Our friends and neighbors are getting wise to the gas bills and still their houses are chilly.  But I think any house is chilly with these temps.  They are asking advice about installing a wood stove, but it’s not so easy, nor is it inexpensive.

We are very fortunate, or perhaps I should say I am very fortunate.  I am married to a man who can do all this sort of work and does for our house.  Five years ago he constructed a hearth of Pennsylvania flagstone, all 600 lbs. of stone.  Actually three main pieces of flagstone, with smaller bits to fill in.  The hearth is huge and solid.  But it’s not the work that most would go to.  He had to construct a floor system beneath it when he built this portion of the house to sustain such weight.  Add a 400 lb. wood stove and that’s 1000 lbs. of weight in one place.  Add the weight of those shivering around the wood stove and you get what I mean.

This is the second wood stove we have had in 25 years.  We buy our wood stoves from Lehman’s in Ohio.  They are an Amish outfit and very easy to work with.  We bought  the Consolidated Dutchwest model we had before, but I have my eye on a beautiful soapstone Irish Waterford stove.  I would have said that the winters down here can not sustain the expense of this  expensive stove, but this year might prove me wrong.

There is something  primordial  in our relationship to heat. We know without it, and a steady supply of it, we die.  Here my son would have said: “Duh, Mom.”

This weather has realigned my priorities. I am home all day and know that I am only warm by my efforts, my labors.  Though the wood pile is only yards from the back porch, I have insisted on stacking the split logs the width of the porch and at least 4 feet high.  I can look out the back door and see the wood.  It represents wealth…riches beyond barter to me.  I get more satisfaction knowing that warmth and comfort is just a few feet away.  It’s more than that: it’s life.

Lady Nyo

Let It Snow…..please.

January 5, 2010

snow scene

In the South, predictions of snow are avoided.  Perhaps it’s because until about 20 years ago there was only one snow plow in the city of Atlanta.

We usually have ice.  First it rains, then freezes, usually as it rains, but it doesn’t turn to snow. Then all the power lines come down.  Or they sway with a frozen heaviness that looks  like white lead ribbons have woven webs above the landscape.  The bushes are laden with ice and fall over, or part down the middle.

I remember a particular ice storm in the early 70’s.  It lasted for two weeks, or the effects of it did.  I had a SAAB back then (actually had three of them…probably to keep one running) and I believe it had something like four wheel drive.  Probably a Swedish version,, but it was like a mountain goat.  I heard very recently that SAAB closed up shop forever.  Sad.

Well, that car and I drove around all day and just watched the havoc ice made on the streets.  You could get out of your car and push it sideways with your hands.  Not that you needed to, but it was rather amazing you could could do it.  Perhaps it just was with SAABS.  They were rather light cars back then.

I think the expectation of snow is better than the actual snow fall.  But we have it so little perhaps we get easily excited down here.  I do know that weatherfolk carefully avoid the word ‘snow’ and call it ‘possible frozen precipitation’.  What the hell is that susposed to mean?  Sounds like snow to me.

Last March 1st…..very late in the year, we got our first snowfall of the year.  It was gorgeous.  All day it snowed, from early morning to nightfall.  Six inches of beautiful, silent snow.  Looking out from an upstairs window, the whole street looked like a Japanese village, which is a pretty good trick 3 miles from downtown Atlanta.

It was the serenity and silence, no traffic to defile the purity of such a gift.  And down here, when we can count years before we have a snowfall….it is a gift.

I was raised in the North, and snowfalls were every year.   I remember winter being one long snowfall.  Grayed days turned to blurry afternoons with a blizzard that piled up drifts, once plowed on our country roads, to 10 feet or higher.

My parents restored and raised us in a pre-Revolutionary house.  There were fireplaces in all the major rooms and stout wooden shutters on all windows.  The power went out for days at a time and my poor mother had to cook meals in a fireplace.  My father hung a griddle in the original kitchen fireplace, on that piece of iron that swung out from the bricks.  When we were young, we could swing in the fireplace from that iron.

When the power went out the county linemen would come and work somewhere down the road on the lines.  They always seemed to turn up at our house because my mother always gave them hot chocolate.  I remember the large patterned brown mugs with large handles.  I few years ago I found one in a shop and brought it home.  But that was only one and it disappeared somewhere.

When a good snow was forecast, we knew  school wouldn’t happen.  The Johnsons, husband and wife school bus drivers (and suppliers of endless kittens from their barncats)   wouldn’t get through.  Our mother would insist we get dressed and go to the end of the driveway and wait for the bus.  One time we just put our coats over our pjs and went out there.  The Johnsons made it through that morning.

I remember the snows then almost as mystical experiences.  Snow angels (which I recreated in Montreal last January….hadn’t seen snow like that in many years…) , eating snow, snowball fights, sledding, skiing, snow men, just rolling around in the stuff.  Watching the snow fall through the outside light from the kitchen and watching it transform my childhood world.

There was mystery and expectation and wonder.

Perhaps we don’t lose those things of memory.  Perhaps they recreate themselves in our expectation and excitement when we, down here in the South, hear of the possibilities of snow.

So I’ll await the chances of snow on Thursday.  At dusk, when it’s supposed to begin, I’ll watch for it falling under the soft gleam of the street lamp.

If we get any Thursday, it will be perfect.  A book of Robert Frost poetry, a mug of chocolate and some wet dogs on the sheepskin before the woodstove, and the enforced peace and stillness of Winter.


Lady Nyo


The morning brought a first snow,

And with it wind  over the mountain.

I watched snow turn to ice,

Invisible sleet hit the panes a’ hissin’.

There was soon a crystal coat on tender branches—

Invisible hands pulling to earth,

Anchoring them fast.

I depend upon the silence

Creating a space to remember,

Solitude, too, now to be shared

Only with ghosts,

Or perhaps a cat or two.

Inside the crackling of wood,

Well seasoned of last year’s split,

The sweet, sharp scent of pine and oak,

The groan of a log as it shifts its failing weight—

I remember your boot kicking it back off the hearth,

Sparks flaring upward,

Stars enfolded by a blazing sun.

Outside the pelting sting on windows,

The howl of winter racing round eaves

Looking for attic-access between clapboards,

The hambone skeleton dance to

Shake their palsied bones warm.

Soon  fading light at twilight

Suspends the day

In a cocoon of white, unfocused mystery.

The night brings a muffled benediction

Over the land,

And memory is put aside for the morrow.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009  from “White Cranes of Heaven”, 2010,  published by Lulu

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