“Dust of Snow”
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
By Andrew Miller
In the mornings at my high school in Otsego, MI, I would occasionally see a crow or two picking through the parking lot trash—the extent of my pre-college experience with crows. At the end of my first fall in Ann Arbor, they filled the sky every evening in packs hundreds deep. At night, from the law quad to the Arb, the trees of campus cawed incessantly. Every time I read “Dust of Snow” I invariably envision those roosting crows of Ann Arbor (where for years Frost himself lived and wrote), U-M’s campus, and one snowy day in the Arb in particular.
|Nichols Arboretum in winter|
It was the middle of the day and most of the crows were elsewhere; only a few bounced around in the snow and snowy tree branches. Snow was falling heavily, some catching in the branches of the trees and the rest falling onto the already thick blanket. I was walking with a close friend (then only a new friend), and I don’t remember meeting anyone on the trails except a handful of crows and a raccoon who stared at us from the base of a sycamore on the edge of the river. By the time we’d looped around, left, and found a bus stop, my jeans were wet with melted snow and my body was shivering cold—but I was perfectly content. I’d been distracted from the cold by a wonderful person, the unblemished snow cover, a few crows, and a raccoon.
|A crow rests on a snowy branch|
Without fail, Frost’s accessible little poem leads me to remember that uneventful trip that left me cold, wet, and happy. I’m blessed by it. And often, when the inactivity of cold Michigan winters drags me down, I return to this poem and dream of all the memories I’ve had in the woods and in the winter, and like the shaking crow to the speaker, it pulls me back into gratitude and happiness, it changes my mood.
Another snowy day two years later, I was back in the Arb, wearing a tie and shaking off my coat at the door of the Reader Center.
Somewhere in the middle of our conversation my interviewer asked me: “So you’re interested in poetry?”—yes, I was—“Because we’re planning a nature poetry exhibit for the winter. We’re thinking about displaying well-known poets, perhaps faculty and student poetry too, maybe hosting a reading at the gardens, a short poem contest, etc. Part of your work would involve helping us develop it.”
A moment later she offered me the internship and, grateful and excited about the exhibit, I accepted. I put on my coat and walked back home in the heavy snow, thinking about poetry, nature, winter, the Arb and Gardens, and the internship combining them all.
Now I’m beginning work on the project, making contacts and hunting for poetry, and it is of course a great position. The link between nature and poetry is, I believe, eternal—at least as long as men and women are writing and flowers are growing—and it’s mutually beneficial. Poets will always be moved by the natural world, readers will be moved by poetry, and occasionally those stimulated readers will engage with nature in a new, productive way. We hope our exhibit (opening shortly after Thanksgiving) will feature the right poetry, poetry with the capacity to enhance our visitors’ perception of the natural world as well as their engagement with it. “Dust of Snow” reminds me of all the happiness and beauty I’ve felt in winter, of my first year in college, of my many walks through the Arb in sun and snow and of the people I walked with. I hope that the right poems in the right context will reach our visitors in a similar way, and that, if only briefly, their outlook on the world will take a positive shift.
(If you would like to submit poetry for consideration in our exhibit, feel free to send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
This post, one in a series of stories written by our summer interns, was written by Andrew Miller. Andrew is from Otsego, MI, and a senior in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts studying English and the environment.