06 January, 2008

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

This is a Robert Frost poem, very well-known and a favorite of mine. The words, the activity, the timbre of the rhyme are so peaceful, so quiet. It "feels like snow", if that makes any sense at all. It so exquisitely expresses the feeling that comes when you leave the house, trugding slowly further away from the light streaming from the windows, across the snow-covered fields, towards the forest. The snow seems to absorb other noises - you can hear the soft settling of snowflakes onto tree branches, you hear the muffled crunch of your own boots on the ground, but birds, wind, creaking trees and other noises all seem stilled. It's a moment set out of time; a moment held up as though suspended in a clear pane of ice, ready to be marveled at.

And it so rarely is marveled at, as Frost points out. The horse, unable to apprehend why anyone would stop and stare while lingering in the cold reminds me very much of our culture today, thouroughly pragmatic as we often are in our views of nature. "Why would anyone want to drive in that stuff?" "It's freezing out here." "Bah humbug."

It takes something peculiarly human to recognize beauty. We have to hang on to that ability and foster it - it's something that defines us, and losing it is one of the greatest tragedies I can imagine. Even if there are "promises to keep" and "miles to go before sleep" - there still can be time to notice and to wonder at the beauty of Creation. We just need to be human enough to do so.

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