Yesterday, we woke to find a killer whale the size of Jonah's beached way up on the driveway, circumference of four feet or so, dorsal fin intact. This 30' sea monster got left there by a north wind that rattled windows most the night and constructed a snowy siege around the front door, beautiful stuff really, except that it had to be moved, grain scoop by grain scoop.
People say we had a foot of snow, but I don't know how to measure output when the wind plays its perfectly artful tricks. There was nothing on most of the front lawn. Out back, however, that wind left massive ornamentation.
During my years as a teacher, if I was really lucky--if I was blessed--we'd be well into Emerson when the first snow would fall outside the windows at school. It didn't happen every year, but it did happen often enough to make me think that God may have loved Ralph Waldo more than Old Lights who had him banned from Harvard after a now famous, off-the-wall speech at the Divinity School.
If we were lucky, if we were blessed, my American Lit class might just be reading Emerson's "Snowstorm" on the morning the whole campus donned its first ermine shawl. Gorgeous snow + impeccable timing = literature lives.
We're into February now, and snow is no novelty. We've had three storms already, all of them quite gentlemanly actually, not the kind of blizzard that takes your face off and doesn't make romantic poetry.
Yesterday's tightly-wound winter storm was much leaner and meaner than the three already behind us. It pushed sandpaper snow along, that "driving o'er the fields,/Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air/Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,/And veils the farm-house at the garden's end."
No school--two days. That kind of winter storm.
Once the wind died, our corner of the world was little more than "frolic architecture," the profound shapes blizzards deftly create.
Come see the northwind's masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry everymore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Emerson called the work of the heavenly mason "astonished art," not "astonishinig" art but art that seems so much alive that it is itself astonished by its being.
Maybe you have to be crazy to be thus astonished, but February or not, what was out there yesterday at dawn takes your breath away.
Emerson was, to his age and yet today, something of a loon, a dreamer, a philosopher of the "Over-Soul," that divine oneness he claimed made us all brothers and sisters, that oneness that was itself God--well god, although he would have certainly kept it upper case. The Civil War took the wind out of the sails of the transcendentalists, most of whom were still doing battle with the dark old tenets of Calvinism.
Love him or hate him, I couldn't help thinking of Emerson and his "Snowstorm" yesterday, our backyard a gallery of "frolic architecture." Old Waldo makes God out to be a snow mason in that old poem, an artist. On that score, he wasn't dreaming.
And it'll all be gone by this weekend. Amazing. Incredible really. Enough blessed beauty, certainly, for this morning's thanks.