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  • Writer's pictureTerry Pace

Snowflakes

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Out of the bosom of the Air. Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken, Over the woodlands brown and bare, Over the harvest-fields forsaken, Silent and soft and slow Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take Suddenly shape in some divine expression, Even as the troubled heart doth make In the white countenance confession, The troubled sky reveals The grief it feels

This is the poem of the air, Slowly in silent syllables recorded; This is the secret of despair, Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded, Now whispered and revealed To wood and field.


Longfellow (RIP 1807-1882) was an American poet from the great state of Maine and a Harvard professor. He was a prolific writer and a literary friend to countless throughout the world during his life in the 1800's. Some call him a romantic poet, some a transcendental poet. Clearly he wrote with both a commonality of direct daily experience that folks could relate to and with the forces of reverence and mystery in God and in Nature. I first read Longfellow when I was about 22. I was given a book of my wife's grandfather's and immediately devoured it in full and have read it now many times. Each time I return to read him, I find old comforts and new inspirations in his work. Of the hundreds of his poems I could post today, I chose this one for its title and then its message (at least message to me, you can find your own message). I have been called a "snowflake" recently by friends who differ from my liberal inclusive outlook that embraces much of democratic socialism. I really don't know what the term "snowflake" means to others. To me it suggests a unique and temporal or changing nature. If this is close to what others mean, then I fully accept the accusation. The individuality of snowflakes is a scientific fact. Yet, when combined they can form great changes in our world. I love snowflakes and the accumulations of them into great snows that can overpower worlds. It represents to me the strength we have in diversity and collective support for one another. But the poem says so much more. Walking when the snow is falling and all else is muffled and quiet is one of the happiest and most mournful of times for me. There is a sacredness I feel with the intimacy made by the falling snow where one cannot see as broadly or far, sounds are buffered and the world feels smaller for that moment. In those times I recall mourning. I think the intimacy and calm offers up such opportunities. Longfellow mentions this grieving aspect of a snow fall and I am comforted to have his blessing upon my reflective habits. Along with Longfellow, I think maybe that the transitory nature of the snow fall helps me to realize the reality of this transitory life and without this daily awareness our lives are likely to be adrift, harsh and even harmful.

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