The sky is low, the clouds are mean

january days - 1.jpg


The sky is low, the clouds are mean,
A travelling flake of snow
Across a barn or through a rut
Debates if it will go.

A narrow wind complains all day
How some one treated him;
Nature, like us, is sometimes caught
Without her diadem.–Emily Dickinson

I looked up diadem–its definition is crown.   I think this poem means that even Nature has bad moods in the month of January.  The roads have been ice in the morning, and pure slop by afternoon, and I’ve used an entire gallon of window washer liquid by the end of the day.  I rarely complain seriously about winter until February, but, lately, I feel like I am the wind, which ‘complains all day’.  Just as I was growing weary of these mean cloud days, we are now under an inversion with freezing fog, forecasted as far out as NOAA’s predictions go.  There will be no clouds in the sky, only cold fog.
There’s much to be grumpy about in the news.  I have family members who are federal employees, and we all have family members who made the long journey to America, carrying only hope on their backs.  I should probably take a news break, but I feel like I’m driving my car passed a terrible accident, and I can’t look away from the ambulance with the stretcher.  I avoid the gut-wrenching news reports of kidnapping, murder and mayhem, but, in January, sometimes the fragility and vulnerability of life creeps in and out of the fog.   Valerie sent me a copy of the message she found on her neighbors’ car just a few days ago.  “The owner of this car has been in a serious accident and we cannot locate the keys to move it so please don’t ticket it.”  Shortly after we had left California, the couple next door were hit by a car, walking in the same intersection Norah crosses every day on her way to school.  The parents are both still in the ICU, intubated.  Their 17-year old daughter put the message on her Mom’s car on street-cleaning day.  Winter always has days in which it feels like the wolf is at the door.
In my cozy house in a forest, by the water, I bring in wood for the fire, light the candles, and close the lace curtains against the dark night, grateful for the day I’ve been given, and that all my loved ones are safe.  Whatever the weather.


There is weather on the day you are born
and weather on the day you die. There is
the year of drought, and the year of floods,
when everything rises and swells,
the year when winter will not stop falling,
and the year when summer lightning
burns the prairie, makes it disappear.
There are the weathervanes, dizzy
on top of farmhouses, hurricanes
curled like cats on a map of sky:
there are cows under the trees outlined
in flies. There is the weather that blows
a stranger into town and the weather
that changes suddenly: an argument,
a sickness, a baby born
too soon. Crops fail and a field becomes
a study in hunger; storm clouds
billow over the sea;
tornadoes appear like the drunk
trunks of elephants. People talking about
weather are people who don’t know what to say
and yet the weather is what happens to all of us:
the blizzard that makes our neighborhoods
strange, the flood that carries away
our plans. We are getting ready for the weather,
or cleaning up after the weather, or enduring
the weather. We are drenched in rain
or sweat: we are looking for an umbrella,
a second mitten; we are gathering
wood to build a fire.


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