Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter Severe Weather

I tap the digits of the long-distance number and wait, half listening, for the point in the menu where I can press 4 for our region and 3 for our forecast. My mind tunes out the random clip advertising other services, but the echo of that voice returns at moments through the day: "Winter Severe Weather..."

In this land, this week,
severe weather is a violent stillness
creeping inward to the places where life
curling protectively around its own spark
waiting, hoping to last
until rescue.

Lasting until rescue, and knowing some will not, is a grim reality of life in this land. Small wonder that Connie Kaldor sings, "I come from a land that is harsh and unforgiving..." and tells the story of one who "tried to walk and froze to death, fifty feet from town." Sometimes summer too drains life away: again Connie sings of those still standing, stony faced with survivor guilt, "hoping to hold on so you don't end up like the neighbours: him and her, they're weeping as the auctioneer yells."

In a gentler song of springtime, Ian Tyson recalls the names of his neighbours and their ranches, where each in turn is pictured "pulling calves," helping with the birthing and rejoicing that they "made it through another on the northern range." In the last line of the song, though, he brings to mind the name of one more rancher, one who has pulled calves for the last time: "Gid's in the country where the tall grass grows..."