March 22, 2017

“Shall never see a poem lovely as a tree”

By Brett Yates

Winter landscapes will never stop being kind of magical to me, no matter how joylessly and cynically grownup I become: the endless unstained carpet of a fresh snowfall, the sculptural perfection of an icicle, the fierce sting of the cold itself.
The dreamlike beauty of the alpine environment is one of the central pleasures of skiing, but it’s one I try not to talk about too much, because you’ll usually end up sounding pretty corny if—in the midst of a chairlift conversation about a totally sick run—you spontaneously begin to rhapsodize about the glories of nature. Even in a carefully, feelingly constructed piece of writing, there’s not much point to that kind of lyricism for me: the natural world is what it is—it doesn’t help to say anything non-informational about it, and in this case, it doesn’t need the help anyway.
Even so, while skiing in the trees on a powder day, I’m forever struck by the strange shapes of the frozen, snow-draped conifers around me and often feel compelled to search my brain for comparisons. The crystalline needles of the pine, the defeated branches of the spruce, rendered shapeless mounds by the seemingly unlikely adherence of pounds of white fluff—what do these odd, rigid creatures of winter look like?
We all have lyrical moments: let’s just admit it. Below are the 11 mostly terrible comparisons I jotted down (not really—I used my phone) on a recent ski day while gazing, with the innocent wonder of a young poet, at the surrounding trees, being reminded of various things. Can you please do better?
The spinal column of a dinosaur
An Old English Sheepdog, sleeping
An elderly woman in a wedding dress (e.g., Miss Havisham from “Great Expectations”)
A very carefully balanced stack of popcorn kernels
The Washington Monument
A 1970s space station
An elaborately arranged pillow fort
A white pipe cleaner
A Wampa ice creature (the carnivorous monster living on the planet Hoth in “The Empire Strikes Back””
The Venus de Milo
An old carrot, fully consumed by white mold

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