Stopping by woods on a snowy evening
It was a long time ago, in Mrs. Elizabeth Hayworth’s 12 grade English class. It was the first time I ever enjoyed the whole year of English, because I hated the grammar and diagraming of sentences with a passion, though I suppose those who read my column should be able to tell that by now. That senior year of English, we only studied literature, and all through the school year, I had no problems with that.
I tended to appreciate the prose and show some disdain for the poetry, but I can still remember with clarity, turning the page in that high school literature book and reading the words of Robert Frost’s, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, a poem about killing a little time when there was snow in the woods. Even at age 17, I appreciated the sentiment of taking a little time to smell the snow.
It’s a sad thing that most Americans have lost their connection with the wonderful creation we live in. We have jobs, appointments, and places to take the kids, so later we can take them somewhere else, and watch them play football or the piano. Our lives are tightly scheduled, and most of us spend little time outdoors. We drive our cars with the windows up and the air conditioning or heater running. We sleep with the windows closed. Our jobs don’t generally have any connection with the outdoors, and when we do spend time outdoors, it’s often at a human-modified location, such as a golf course, amusement park, or sports complex.
This week, I took an outing during some of the hardest snowfall of a snowy week. I followed the little branch that runs through our family land, that I’ve named Lewis Creek after my daddy, Lewis Jones. Lewis Creek runs into Rich Fork several hundred yards below our house, and I followed the creek up through the overgrown meadow that was once, J.D. Sneed’s cow pasture. I jumped a flock of turkeys at the upper edge of J.D.’s pasture, and then crossed back across Criddlebaugh Ridge, to my house. It was a short little trip that I made last longer by dawdling, and it would have been totally uneventful, had I not flushed the turkeys, (This is something everyone should do at least once; they get up like a covey of quail that happen to be the size of beagles.) By the time I was crossing the ridge and within sight of my house through the trees, the reading of Snowy Evening in that class room, at Ledford High School almost 50 years ago, came alive in my mind.
History tells us Robert Frost wrote Snowy Evening in 1922 after staying up all night writing another, longer, poem titled, New Hampshire. He went outside to view the sunrise. Snowy Evening instantly came to him and he wrote it down. It’s generally agreed, it’s his best known work.
At the time Frost wrote Snowy Evening, I’m sure he felt he was living in a time of great technological growth. I suspect the reference to horse and harness reflected a remembrance of simpler times, and the vision of a sunrise took him back to that simpler feeling. The point of all this, is that our lives are enriched by the quiet appreciation of God’s creation. As a writer, I’m familiar with working hard to create something. Frost had spent a whole night writing a single, somewhat long-winded, perhaps a bit pretentious, poem. After an all-night effort producing a poem I suspect few people have ever read or heard, he stepped outside, watched a sunrise, and gained instant inspiration to write arguably the most recognized work of his lifetime.
I believe the lesson in this is one I think I’ve already learned. The best things in life aren’t the things humanity has created. The best things in life aren’t the most expensive things, or the most technologically advanced things. The best things in life aren’t the things we can own that impress other people. The best things in life are what God created for us. They are sunrises, mountains, and snowy afternoons, coupled with us taking the time to appreciate them. In the complicated world we’ve created that provides us with opportunities unimagined in the time of Robert Frost, a little quiet time with nature can do more to inspire us than all the contrivances we’ve worked so hard to create.
This week, take a little time to smell the roses, or the snow, or the sunrise.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for national magazines and websites. If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or offtheporchmedia.com