January skies

“By December the new season was entrenched, and the city was covered almost every day by an ominous steel-grey sky, like one in a painting by Mantegna or Veronese, the perfect backdrop to the crucifixion of Christ or to a day beneath the bedclothes.”
— Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

“Winter is a blue season, gray-blue at dawn, blue-white in landscapes, and for many people blue in mood.”
— Diane Ackerman, Dawn Light:  Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day

What color is your winter?  Mine definitely looks more like de Botton’s description — gray, gray, gray.  I like how his comments about all the grayness end with a rather cozy image of lingering in bed beneath warm blankets!


“He slept
with his long neck
folded, like a letter
put away.”
Jane Hirshfield, from “Hope and Love”

The curved neck of a heron

Detail of heron's head and neck

I wish I knew the poetic words to describe the feathers of this Great Blue Heron.

Detail, heron feathers

Detail, heron feathers

Detail, wing feathers of Great Blue Heron

Pussy Willow Wreath

February 25, 2010

I’d never taken the time before to really look closely at the budding of  a willow tree.  I’ve just noticed that those little gray muffs of pussy willow eventually sprout  into an explosion of yellow.

Pussy willows in an advanced state of bloom

Bursting into full bloom

I picked a few sprays of willow to make a spring wreath.  It’s a very simple arrangement, but I like it.

Ready to assemble my willow wreath

Finished wreath

Gracing the front entry way

This looks like the end of the season for pussy willows, so I’ll end this post with a nursery rhyme:

Pussy willow wakened from her cozy winter nap,
For the frolicking spring breeze, on her door would tap.
“It is chilly weather, though the sun feels good;
I will wrap up warmly and wear my furry hood.”
Mistress Pussy Willow opened wide her door;
Never had the sunshine seemed so bright before.
Never had the brooklet seemed so full of cheer;
“Good morning, Pussy Willow, welcome to you, dear.”
Never guest was quainter, than when Pussy came to town,
In her hood of silver gray, and tiny coat of brown.
Happy little children cried with laugh and shout,
“Spring is coming, coming,
Mistress Pussy Willow’s out.”
     — Author unknown

Fairy Muffs of Gray

February 16, 2010

“When first the pussy-willow shows
Her fairy muffs of gray. . .”
     — Percy MacKaye

I saw these pussy willows in an alley during yesterday’s walk in my neighborhood.  They really do look and feel like miniature soft, gray muffs.

Pussy willow

Pussy-Willow Time
by Robert Frost

That every footprint’s now a pool,
And every rut a river cool,
Are things light vernal hearts make nought of;
For mud time’s pussy-willow time
When tender-hearted bluebirds chime,
And unborn violets first are thought of.

Fairy muffs of gray


Pussy willow switch


When Gray Is Enough

February 8, 2010

Beige slat of sun nearing sunset over Puget Sound

Otherwise, clouds. . .

Mind Wanting More
by Holly Hughes

Only a beige slat of sun
above the horizon, like a shade pulled
not quite down.  Otherwise,
clouds.  Sea rippled here and
there.  Birds reluctant to fly.
The mind wants a shaft of sun to
stir the grey porridge of clouds,
an osprey to stitch the sea to sky
with its barred wings, some dramatic
music:  a symphony, perhaps
a Chinese gong.

But the mind always
wants more than it has —
one more bright day of sun,
one more clear night in bed
with the moon; one more hour
to get the words right; one
more chance for the heart in hiding
to emerge from its thicket
in dried grasses — as if this quiet day
with its tentative light weren’t enough,
as if joy weren’t strewn all around.

This poem really speaks to me, especially during these gray days of winter when the doldrums lurk.  My husband and I met at Olympic Sculpture Park on Saturday evening for the 5:19 p.m. sunset.  We didn’t witness any brilliant pinks, oranges, or purples, but the soft slat of golden sky between the clouds was enough.

Infinity of Gray

January 20, 2010

The gray palette of our Seattle winter

“The valley labors beneath that dismal, beautiful, socked-in panoply of boiling gunmetal clouds, an eternity and infinity of purple and gray reefs and shoals.  Let the rest of the world have its sun, one thinks.  There is something noble about our lightless winters — even if they do, over the long course of the silent season, hammer your spirit deeper and deeper into submission and then, later, despair.”
     — Rick Bass, The Wild Marsh: Four Seasons at Home in Montana

I am trying hard to find the nobility and beauty in our gray, gray winter landscape.  For the first 17 days of January, Seattle has been drenched with 2 inches over and above the normal amount of rainfall (5.37 inches vs. the normal 2.89 inches).  And we had precipitation on 16 of 17 days.  I’d love to see some sunshine.

Rain like an Old Gray Aunt

January 7, 2010

Raindrops like jewels strung on a necklace

Winter berries in the rain

Lately we’ve been having a typical wet, gray, mild winter.  No one has described our Seattle weather better than Ken Kesey in Sometimes a Great Notion:

“The rain had let up and leveled out to its usual winter-long pace. . . not so much rain as a dreamy smear of blue-gray that wipes over the land instead of falling on it, making patient spectral shades of the tree trunks and a pathetic, placid, and cordial sighing sound all along the broad river.  A friendly sound, even.  It was nothing fearful after all.  The same old rain, and, if not welcomed, at least accepted — an old gray aunt who came to visit every winter and stayed till spring.  You learn to live with her.  You learn to reconcile yourself to the little inconveniences and not get annoyed.  You remember she is seldom angry or vicious and nothing to get in a stew about, and if she is a bore and stays overlong you can train yourself not to notice her, or at least not to stew about her.”