My Poetry assignment this weekend is to link to a favorite poem, and indicate what there is about it that moves me. I’ve chosen Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost because of memories it evokes. This was one of my favorite books to read aloud to school groups for work: I love the poem, and I love the book and illustrations I shared with the kiddos. But mostly, for me it points back to a very special Christmas, and the silence of a beautiful snowfall.
Our family of four took a vacation to Yellowstone National Park for Christmas 2008. We celebrated my son’s birthday by snow-mobiling all over town on the 23rd, but early Christmas Eve Day, we boarded the Snowcoach and entered the Park.
The ride into Yellowstone is not terribly comfortable – 10+ people packed in, with coats and boots and mittens and bags and stuff. At some point, the interior of the coach either gets very warm and so I try to remove my winter outerwear, or I realize I’m still freezing. It’s loud, and smells like the gas of a two-stroke engine snowblower, which upsets my stomach just a smidge. The ride takes several hours, though, so we eventually settle in. The views are gorgeous – snow everywhere we look, beautiful mountain cliffs and trees and streams and steam and wildlife.
The snow started on the 24th and it snowed all night, all of Christmas Day and Christmas night, and on the 26th the sun shone brightly in a big blue sky and sparkled off the fresh snow and into the air. Magical.
The snow began falling – large flakes – as we settled into our room on Christmas Eve afternoon and explored the building. We found big chairs and couches facing full length windows where we could look out or sit and read, and there were tables scattered about the Lodge with board games and many with puzzles. We spent the next day and a half moving from window to window, area to area, reading, playing, laughing. And the snow kept falling. Always huge flakes.
There were only about 200 people in the Lodge, so everyone began to look familiar – from being at the same meal time seating or walking on the stairs or sitting next to them in the Lounge. And of course, we saw everyone on Christmas morning at 6am when a cook burned the bacon and the fire alarm sounded and we all had to evacuate the building and stand out front in the cold while the fire fighters came – on snowmobiles! It was early, and we had been awakened suddenly but everyone was cheerful; there was lots of “Merry Christmas!” as we waited for the all-clear signal. This shared experience and now we were all friends!
After the fire alarm, our family headed back to our room for more sleep. Of course, Santa had come during the night, so stockings had to be emptied and examined. But then we all slept for another hour, awakened and got ready for Christmas Day and headed off to breakfast, with no scent of burnt bacon anywhere. Had it been a dream? We came back to the room and exchanged some Christmas presents, watched a Christmas movie, and took a nap.
Later on Christmas afternoon, my husband donned his winter gear to go snow shoeing – I followed him to the front round driveway of the hotel entrance to take pictures. I remember it being so quiet outside! I expected to hear noises, at least the sound of the geysers in the distance, but instead it was a beautiful huge silence, to match the huge flakes that fell from the sky.
On the 26th, our foursome went cross country skiing. The snow was chest-high on my son. Again, there was little sound, except for all the noise we made as we laughed and shouted to each other. The snow on the trees near the geysers was frozen in glistening crystalline patterns – absolutely enchanting. When we returned, we celebrated with hot chocolate and a seat by the huge stone fireplace, our ears and noses pink, and my memories vivid and full.
And when I read this poem to children, and as I read it now, I think of the snow falling in the “lovely, dark and deep” woods of Yellowstone, and the silence of “the sweep of easy wind and downy flake.”
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
BY ROBERT FROST
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.