Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cold Comfort Up North

The Snowbirds have flown. The kids and grandkids have gone back home from the holiday visits. Some ATVs are plowing snow to their fishing holes, and the snowmobilers take to the ditches at quitting time and over the weekends. Quiet has descended on the Northland. With a fresh dumping of more than a foot of snow, the guys with the plows can finally earn some money. Trailer loads of toys are coming North to travel the snow trails that are groomed and ready.

Their drivers will buy the drinks, groceries, and gasolene while they’re up here. Retailers can sell their goods to the winter visitors and relax about any new downtown housing projects. Supportive housing apartments are years away, and will need grant subsidies from a stingy government - if they are ever built.

Up North at least, it is a time of peace. Away from crowded metropolitan airports. If the snowplows haven’t cleared the roads, we’ll just stay beside the fireplace and listen to the church service. Finally, the day after Christmas, the backup guy with the grader cleared a path so we could emerge.


In the last decade our nation has been attacked by terrorists in four planes. In recent days another attack nearly blew up a plane coming to land in Michigan. We are fighting two wars in the Middle East, and tens of thousands of our troops serve in danger for our protection.

As a veteran who once flew with bombs and torpedoes, I worried about the nuclear exchange that seemed so near. If we could only prevent such a doomsday, then all these other international problems could be sorted out, I thought. But almost half a century later anxiety continues as young Americans face danger overseas and the home folks can sense terror.

Looking out at the country snowscape, as our chickadees and squirrels feed, I remember lines of a favorite poet. Decades ago Wendell Berry of Kentucky wrote of “The Peace of Wild Things.” His words give me a kind of hope and comfort today:

“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

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