horse must think it queer


You could feel how far away the Earth is from the sun, how far we’ve tipped in one direction. The night came on so quickly, like the day hardly put in an effort. The wind up the Taconic Valley was so cold, so achingly shrill, that it made you contemplate the same things Robert Frost did when he wondered how lovely, dark and deep those woods really were.

These are the nights that took young settlers from their parents, took fathers while they were hunting. It’s no surprise they would move the birth of the Christ Child from April to this cruel week, just to let the story luminesce from within.

When the ancient pagans and druids celebrated the solstice, they were not celebrating the longest night of the year, they were thanking their gods for letting the days get longer. It is a holiday of “this cannot get worse,” which gives freezing comfort to those looking out over the endless hills of ice.

I always look to one of my favorite poems ever, “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.

0 thoughts on “horse must think it queer

  1. Just Andrew

    yeah, well, I’ve got no poem, but I just got back from the bar where I watched the Heels lose a rough one. The drive home it was snowing like mad. I come into the old barn that serves as my office and it seems the furnace has cut out on me again. I need to fix it before I go to sleep and I’ve got to be up in the morning to get the boys off to school.
    Those Southern Cal cheerleaders are seriously making me think about relocating.

  2. Greg from Winston Dorm

    I watched the first part of the USC game on television and then compromised and let my wife watch the finale of Martha Stewart’s Apprentice (recorded on TiVo, don’t you know). By the time I got back to the game, we were down 9 points with 5:44 to go and we could never catch up. Maybe the boys had jet lag or ate a bad fish taco at Wahoo’s in Manhattan Beach.
    But the team is lovely, young and deep/And Roy has promises to keep/And miles to go before they sleep/And miles to go before they sleep.
    As for winter stuff–if it ain’t snowing, there is no need for cold weather. About the only good benefit of the cold is that one does not get attacked by Mothra-sized mosquitos (it’s a southern thing, you wouldn’t understand) and one does not have to cut the grass. Then again, there are leaves to rake.
    I was born on the summer solstice and LONGEST day of the year. So, if Christmas wasn’t three days away, if we weren’t in the middle of the college bowl season and the NFL playoff hunt, I’d be miserable. As it is, only two weeks or less until the SCRUBS season premiere. So life is good.
    Ian, I will endeavor to get the Carolina pool table light taken down and shipped to you this coming week. I’ll have to get a nostalgic photo of the light and I together before I say goodbye. Keep up the good work with the blog. I enjoy checking it first thing every morning, with a warm cup of coffee.
    Merry Christmas to everyone and to all a good day.

  3. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Now you’ve got me all choked up. I appreciate today’s entry. . . I don’t mean to be a downer, but I wanted to share some news with my Internet friends. My mother-in-law, who has suffered from Parkinson’s disease for the past 17 years, is entering hospice today. Per her wishes, no extraordinary measures are being taken to prolong her life, and she will most likely die within the next few days. The Higher Power in charge has a bad sense of timing: my in-laws’ 44th wedding anniversary is tomorrow, and her 67th birthday is 12/31. Not to mention that this will be remembered as the Christmas When Grandma Died. Good grief.
    Anyway, my mother-in-law, born and raised in Eagle Grove, Iowa, is often referred to by all who know her as “the kindest, nicest person they know.” And, you know what? She really is! She has not had a healthy day since I met her 14 years ago, and yet she hardly ever complained. She never let minor details like not being able to walk prevent her from seeing all of Helen’s soccer games. She is a wonderful person, and she certainly has not deserved this special brand of neurological misery.
    I had mentioned your blog to my mother-in-law many times. She ALWAYS loved to hear about anything related to Iowa, and she was interested in your frequent rants about stem cell research. She also thought Lucy was precious with a capital P. If you could send some good thoughts her way today, I am sure she would appreciate them.

  4. LFMD

    Oh, and PLEASE don’t let my post bring the chit chat about So Cal cheerleaders and the Heels games to a halt! It is all part of the circle of life, you know? I was reminded of that when my daughter and I left Grandma’s hospital room last night and wandered down the hall to the labor and delivery wing to see the little babies that had just been born.
    Keep talking amongst yourselves. . . : ) I just wanted to generate some good vibes for my mother-in-law. It is just about all there is left to do when life gets to this point.

  5. scruggs

    LFMD, my thoughts will be with your family this week, and I will keep ya’ll in our prayers. Do remember that, though struggling with a difficult and unforgiving illness, she had the joys of racking up 44 years of marriage, seeing her son get married and establishing a family of his own, and spending time with her granddaughter. I’m sure she would be glad to know you hold her in such high esteem.
    And yes, crappy game last night. And I now have bigger bags under my eyes today for nothing by staying up and watching it. Well, who can sleep when Husband is pacing the bedroom grumping at midnight?

  6. jordi

    best wishes to your family, laurie! your mother-in-law sounds like a wonderful woman and it’s great that you appreciate her.

  7. gina

    Ian – thank you for sharing the evocative poem. I could almost smell the pine trees under the ice.
    LFMD – I will keep you and your family in my thoughts — especially Helen. It looks like you may have a very trying Christmas. (I don’t mean to sound flip, but I feel a compulsion to bring you a casserole or something since I live not-too-far from you (in northern VA). It must be my southern roots showing.)
    Happy holidays to all. And thank you, Ian, for sharing your thoughts, emotions, rants and pontification in this blog. Here’s to a great 2006.

  8. Annie

    LFMD, I will be thinking of your mom-in-law too these next few days. With a dear friend just out of the hospital from brain surgery complications, another acquaintance lying in a coma, and a 90-year-old grandma to visit, I’m all too aware this month of the delicacy of health, whether you are pushing 40 or 100. Hearing tales of various health failures, I’m often struck by the specificity of the problem–if just one little tiny part of one thing begins to malfunction, it can knock awry the whole functioning of the body into permanent convalescence or even death. One is moved to contemplate the staggering balance mysteriously somehow achieved every moment of every day as we walk around in our healthy bodies…but is it enough to get me to stop smoking? Maybe.
    Ian, thank you for including the Stevens poem–every reading stuns me anew. Who was this guy and how did he do what he did???? I imagine him flipping through claim forms at his insurance job (yes, LFMD, that’s what he did!) and randomly pausing to slide out the scratch sheet where he jotted down some of the greatest poems of the 20th century…good god.
    “One must have a mind of winter–”

  9. LFMD

    Annie, I had no idea that Stevens was an insurance drone like myself! Very interesting. Here is another interesting fact for you. . . William Carlos Williams was the pediatrician for my great-aunt’s family up in NJ.
    Thanks for your kind words re: my mother-in-law. I just talked with my husband, and they are having trouble finding a hospice facility with an opening. Apparently, there is no room at the inn this Christmas for people who want to die in peace and with some dignity. Since the hospital wants her “out”, Tim’s poor dad may need to take her home so that she can die there. Not that he is prepared to take care of his dying wife, but that is another story. Ugh.
    Part of me hopes that when my number is up, I can suddenly die in my sleep or have a quick heart attack at an old age, or some other clean break. Lingering like this is for the birds. Seems to me that modern medicine keeps people old enough and alive enough just so that they can linger for such a long time. . . without any consideration for the quality of life factor.

  10. LFMD

    Gina! Thanks for the thought! You are sweet. The ladies here at the Insurance Job helped me get a game plan together for Christmas. Given all of the distractions lately, my housekeeping (which is normally maintained at a bare minimum anyway) has gone to hell. I think we are on our last roll of toilet paper! I invited my parents down from NJ to try to make Christmas fun for Helen. And then it occurred to me that our refrigerator is empty, the house is a sty, and all of Helen’s gifts are still in the boxes. So, when I get out of work today, I will be wrapping gifts, cleaning, picking up my “ready made Holiday meal” at the Giant foodstore, etc. My kid is going to have a good Christmas, one way or another!

  11. eric g.

    God, I love Wallace Stevens. Some lines from his poems ring in my mind virtually every day (samples: “Let be be finale of seem/The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream” and “They said, ‘you have a blue guitar/You do not play things as they are’/The man replied, ‘things as they are/Are changed upon the blue guitar.'”)
    LFMD, I will pray for your mother-in-law.
    Heels, I will hope that you learn to take better care of the basketball.
    USC, thank you for the cheerleaders. Really.
    Happy holidays to all.

  12. Tanya

    Merry Christmas everyone! Ian, lovely entry, as usual.
    Damn those Heels! I wish I didn’t love them so much.
    LFMD, so sorry to hear about your mother-in-law. I cherish mine every day, and honestly don’t know what I’d do without her and my father-in-law. You are blessed to have such a wonderful person in your life. I hope that all goes as well as it can, and it sounds like Helen will have a good Christmas. I have friend who works at the newspaper here in Raleigh, and she said that early January is always the busiest time for the obits pages. It’s incredible how many people will hang on through the holidays. If her quality of life is still bearable, I hope that she will stay with you through Christmas!!
    Take care, y’all.

  13. kaz

    ah, ian. thank you for this. nothing like a wintry poem when it’s nearing 80 degrees in december in LA…
    LFMD, best of luck to you and your family. my grandmother passed away a couple of weeks ago, and it’s a blessing that i’ll have a week to spend with my parents over the holiday. we can’t take even a day for granted.
    best wishes to you all for the holiday.

  14. kjf

    LFMD – my thoughts are with you and your family. I hope you find a hospice for your mother in law. There are many good ones in the Baltimore area if you strike out in your neighborhood.
    I have always thought this Emily Dickinson poem was a comforting one on the subject of death and hope it works that way for you too.
    Because I could not stop for Death,
    He kindly stopped for me;
    The carriage held but just ourselves
    And Immortality.
    We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
    And I had put away
    My labor, and my leisure too,
    For his civility.
    We passed the school where children played
    At wrestling in a ring;
    We passed the fields of gazing grain,
    We passed the setting sun.
    We paused before a house that seemed
    A swelling of the ground;
    The roof was scarcely visible,
    The cornice but a mound.
    Since then ’t is centuries; but each
    Feels shorter than the day
    I first surmised the horses’ heads
    Were toward eternity.

  15. Matt

    Sorry to read of your mother-in-law, LFMD. She’ll be in a stranger’s prayers tonight. Just FYI, Israel Family Hospice House in Ames (about 50 miles from Eagle Grove) accepts patients without means. It’s an excellent facility. My grandfather passed away there earlier this year.

  16. GFWD

    kjf, great poem. LFMD, whenever you wish to read any of Emily Dickinson’s poems, read it to the tune from “Gilligan’s Island” and the subject matter won’t seem so heavy. Works for the poem kjf shared above.


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