Poetic Visualizations of the Winter Season

They say it is winter here in the North Cascades. With the shadowed days and the sting of cold to cheeks as you step outside, one might even believe it is true. But missing from this crisp landscape is also the white beauty of snow. While it is easy to lament the bare ground in January or the undeniable wish for skis and snowshoes, we can also find appreciation in winter’s more subtle forms. The hoar frost feathered like brandished fur on a fallen twig, the crunch of elegant crystalline ice rods pushing their way through hardened soil, the prominent, frozen stalactites dripping from mountain wall. Winter is here, and while we eagerly anticipate a world transformed by snow (the next couple weeks, they say!), we can still appreciate its other poetic manifestations.
Below, a few winter inspired poems.

Winter Song in the Foothills
Tim McNulty, from In Blue Mountain Dusk, 1992
On the colder nights
when the scattered chips
of winter stars
light the valley with frost,
the frozen lakes will sometimes
sing to themselves.
Their song
echoes through the snowforest hills
and still dense midnight air
like a great kettledrum
rumbling deep and hollow
in the belly of the earth.
Plates of ice shift and settle
against their banks of pasture
and wood,
while this strange and restless music
drifts past the frosty ears
of cows, owls
tucked in the hollows of night,
the gentle sleeping bears,
and carries up the hillside creeks
to startle us from sleep
– no song like we ever heard before –
and rock the house softly
on its moorings of ashes and dust.

Crystalline rods of ice, formed during cold, clear nights, push through moss and soil. Photo by Kiira Heymann.

Pine Tree Tops
Gary Snyder, from Turtle Island, 1974
in the blue night
frost haze, the sky glows
with the moon
pine tree tops
bend snow-blue, fade
into sky, frost, starlight.
the creak of boots
rabbit tracks, deer tracks,
what do we know.

Remembering back to the first snowfall of the season in late November. Photo by Kiira Heymann.

Lonely, White Fields
Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Every night
the owl
with his wild monkey-face
calls through the black branches,
and the mice freeze
and the rabbits shiver
in the snowy fields –
and then there is the long, deep trough of silence
when he stops singing, and steps
into the air.
I don’t know
what death’s ultimate
purpose is, but I think
this: whoever dreams of holding his
life in this fist
year after year into the hundreds of years
has never considered the owl –
how he comes, exhausted,
through the snow,
through the icy trees,
past snags and vines, wheeling
out of barns and church steeples,
turing this way and that way
through the mesh of every obstacle –
undeterred by anything –
filling himself time and time again
with a red and digestible joy
sickled up from the lonely, white fields –
and how at daybreak,
as though everything had been done
that must be done, the fields
swell with a rosy light,
the owl fades
back into the branches,
the snow goes on falling
flake after perfect flake.

Leading photo looking east towards Ruby Peak and a soft snow line. Photo by Kiira Heymann.


  1. Deb Davis

    Just lovely. Thank you.

  2. lawrence Kiser

    beautiful sentiments. I loved the pictures, they add much to the poetry and prose.

  3. Craig Campbell

    Wonderful! Thanks for the Friday pick-me-up…

Leave a Comment