There is a strange enchantment that surprises me and my neighbors every year. It is the Cold. The Cold waves a wand over our North and the ground turns to white. The Cold waves its wand and the precipitation turns to snow. The Sun disappears.
In the North, the cold is the crisp climate greeting that meets me as I walk out the morning door. This cold permeates every part of life. It is a part of the atmosphere, the air. This cold is not alone, though; it also brings the smell of woodsmoke, the sound of of trudging footsteps and the sight of my breath exhaled.
Today, I left the house coated, sweatered, and hatted. The drive to this coffeeshop was slow as car’s tires slipped and tended toward the ditch several times. But, upon arriving, the coffee was hotter than in months gone by. Everything I touched had a warmth that has always been there - my skin had just forgotten how warm the world actually is.
My perspective has been skewed from a lack of winter. I am grateful for the unfamiliar magic, for the Cold.
I’ve removed my jacket now and Billy Collins is in my cold hands:
In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.
Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.
Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?
But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.
This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.
He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.