A Jane Kenyon poem

After doing the poetry meme yesterday, I’m inspired to give you a Jane Kenyon poem I read recently and really liked. It’s also appropriate for the upcoming season:

Depression in Winter

There comes a little space between the south
side of a boulder
and the snow that fills the woods around it.
Sun heats the stone, reveals
A crescent of bare ground: brown ferns,
and tufts of needles like red hair,
acorns, a patch of moss, bright green ….

I sank with every step up to my knees,
throwing myself forward with a violence
of effort, greedy for unhappiness —
until by accident I found the stone,
with its secret porch of heat and light,
where something small could luxuriate, then
turned back down my path, chastened and calm.

I like this poem because it reminds me of how wonderful it is to walk in the woods in winter — to notice little things like the thawed space near the rock Kenyon is describing, and to see green things here and there, as a reminder that spring will come soon. The Hobgoblin and I have done a lot of winter hiking, sometimes involving laboring our way through several feet of snow and occasionally involving temperatures barely in the double digits. There’s nothing more exhilarating than a tramp through the snow and nothing nicer than coming home again and warming up with a hot shower and some food.

But Kenyon’s not talking about that kind of walk — the poem also reminds me of how well a walk in the woods can transform my mood. I never come home feeling the same as when I left. I think I know what Kenyon means by being “greedy for unhappiness” — I get like that sometimes: mildly depressed and doing my best to stay that way. And a walk will almost always break me out of that rut; whether it’s seeing something beautiful like Kenyon did in the poem, or whether it’s the movement and exercise that does it, I don’t know, but I rarely come home from a walk unhappy.

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Filed under Books, Poetry

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