Winter Reflection Brings Out The Poet

I was sitting in my house, thinking, and the first few lines of a poem that I haven’t thought of in years popped into my head:
“In winter I get up at night
and dress by yellow candle light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.”
It was written by Robert Louis Stevenson, and appears in A Child’s Garden of Verses.
My family has always been pretty into poetry. My parents have an entire bookcase at home dedicated to their poetry collection. It’s something that has, in a way, been passed down to me. I can recite almost every poem my dad uses as openers for speeches. I have started my own small collection of poetry books. Sometimes I sit in the library and copy my favorites into my journals. And I write my own. Not all the time—sometimes months go by with nothing. But there’s something about a good poem, one that I connect to, that stirs something inside me.
The first book of poems I ever bought was Eating Bread and Honey by Pattiann Rogers. It was 1997. I was ten years old. I’m not sure why I bought it, but I remember going to her book reading at Village Books in Bellingham, and I remember it being a big deal. And then I decided that I didn’t really like poetry after all. I’m not sure where that book is now, but the memory of the experience is seared into my brain forever.

The first poems I remember writing were two years earlier, in 1995, on an 8-day backpacking trip my family took to Sand Point on the wilderness coast of Olympic National Park. My dad says that my sister and I wanted to make up poems just like the ones he was writing in his journal. So he started writing down the poems we came up with while hiking. We put together a book, called Walking Ocean Poems. This is one of my favorites:
When I was walking
the Yellow Banks
the ocean was closing
in on me.


Our book, Walking Ocean Poems! While on this trip, we saw lots of petroglyphs like this one.
My dad, my sister, and I pose for a picture. (My sister Emily, age 5, is on the left; I’m on the right, age 8. And yes, we’re wearing matching t shirts.) The “trail” that took us to our backcountry campsite at Sand Point was a three-mile long boardwalk. Photo by Shelley Weisberg

Since 2008, I’ve written 93 poems. I know that a lot of them are probably pretty terrible. Many of them will never see the light of day. And I’m ok with that, I have a relatively healthy self esteem. But it still feels like some sort of accomplishment. If I printed out all those poems, it would be a big, heavy stack of paper. That’s the weight of my self.
I write poems to calm myself down when I’m angry. I write poems when I’m sad. I write poems when I love someone. I write poems to try and figure things out when I’m confused. I write poems when I’m standing on the top of a mountain and feel exhilarated with the amazingness of life.
Here is my most recent, No. 93, from January 13th, 2013. It brings to mind a still-frame of that day. Cold—the temperature was in the low 20s, making every surface sparkle with ice crystals. Sunshine. Blue sky. Beautiful snowy mountains. Glassy water in Diablo Lake…
Sourdough Creek is frozen—
every surface covered
with white ice,
leaving small holes with jagged edges,
darker spots where the ice is thin. 
I stood there,
next to the creek
at the foot
of Sourdough Mountain,
staring across the grey-green lake.
Snow-covered mountains
rise behind a hill on the other side.

Today they showed me a sunset,
unusual here,
where the sun often dips
out of sight

before any colors appear in the sky.

The sun shines brightly over an icy Diablo Lake. The ice at this spot was about an inch thick. Photo by Ryan Weisberg

It all looks different now. The snow is melting, the ice is gone, the clouds and rain have come back. It’s still beautiful, just different. I like the memories that rise out of these little snippets of my life that I’ve written down.

Leading photo: The moon shines down over the Learning Center in a winter sky. Photo by Ryan Weisberg

Ryan Weisberg is a graduate student in his third quarter of North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University’s M.Ed. program. He grew up here in Washington, exploring the natural areas around Bellingham and in the Cascades. Ryan is the Chattermarks editor this year during his residency at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. 



  1. Shelley Weisberg

    Very sweet, Ryan. Brings back memories. I I am reminded again about how well you write.

  2. Ms Jerry Rutherford

    Ryan–Thanks for your poetry—I have the pleasure of knowing your parents–Expression in words is a very special talent–keep it up.

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