Color My World "Slant"
Updated: Feb 19
On this the coldest day so far of winter 2022 (negative 18 this morning at 7 a.m.), I have reflected on the recent fiery displays of both the sunrise and sunset at Fruitlands. The truth is that it is easy this time of year to be dragged down a bit by the short days and long nights. Many long for more light and warmer days. Having been born in the NEK of Vermont and having spent nearly all of my childhood and adult years in Vermont, reveling in these winter days and anticipating the delight that a snowstorm brings is simply a part of being. As I write, in fact, the excitement is building that we may have a snow storm on Monday, MLK Day. Anticipation builds.
Juxtaposed to this period of darkness to some, anticipation to others, are the most exquisite colors gifted to us by the sunrise and sunset. One must know the rhythms, the timing and be open to taking them in. They are ephemeral but nearly blinding for a moment. In his poem "The Snow-Storm," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Announced by all the trumpets of the sky...tumultuous privacy of storm." He was writing about the coming whiteness, but the truth is that the "warning" is posted by the contrasting brilliance, the sunrise as prelude to storm. The old saying, "Red in the morning; sailors take warning."
Winter Sunrise at Fruitlands
I have been recently reminded of an Emily Dickinson poem:
Tell all the truth but tell it slant — Success in Circuit lies Too bright for our infirm Delight The Truth's superb surprise As Lightning to the Children eased With explanation kind The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind —
Through her telegraphic and economic use of words, Emily's poetic parable suggests that we might not be equipped to handle this "surprise" of nature, this truth of coming storm. Do I get up early to be dazzled by the light, or do I stay under the covers because my app, my doppler radar report, my scrolling storm warning have prepared me to be timid, to want to close my eyes and to dream of tropical paradise? I muse that many a B&B guest has asked, "Do you really live here in the winter? How do you get up this hill? How deep does the snow get?" My answer to the later is, "Not deep enough."
Walking barefoot outside to see the thermometer at 7 a.m., I chuckled to myself to think of how many might be covering themselves from the truth of 18 below. My "delight" is not "infirm" for this is my childhood, the place where I have stood all of these years. I wish to be "dazzled" by the cold, the snow piling up as promised by the colors in the sky.
Winter Sunset at Fruitlands
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, Arrives the snow, and, 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. The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed In a tumultuous privacy of storm.
Come see the north wind's masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer Curves his white bastions with projected roof Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly, On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths; A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn; Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall, Maugre the farmer's sighs; and, at the gate, A tapering turret overtops the work. And when his hours are numbered, and the world Is all his own, retiring, as he were not, Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone, Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work, The frolic architecture of the snow.