Snow and Billie Collins

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(HOST) Recently, commentator Edith Hunter found herself at home nursing a cold and thinking about snow, Billy Collins, Mozart and earthquakes, in that order…

(HUNTER) It is snowing outside, as it ought to be at this time of year in Vermont. It has been snowing all day. Every tree branch is outlined in white.

I am reading a collection of the poetry of Billy Collins, a poet I had not read until recently.

His poem In the Room of a Thousand Miles begins: “I like writing about where I am,/where I happen to be sitting.”

So do I. I have a cold, so I’m sitting in my rocking chair next to the soapstone stove that is radiating its delicious warmth into my kitchen.

On VPR Mozart is being played from Salzburg in celebration of his 250th birthday. I hear a snowplow going down the Center Road. If I choose, I can go out. But I don’t so choose.

I did put on boots and jacket earlier to fill the bird feeders and suet holders. Now a huge hairy woodpecker has flown in and landed with a crash on the suet holder which dangles from a chain. He has set it swinging wildly in circles. Does he enjoy his ride on a merry-go-round? With his broad tail-feathers anchoring him firmly, he clings to the little metal cage and begins whacking at the suet.

The strains of Mozart swell. I think back. What was going on in Weathersfield in 1756? Not much. No Europeans had settled here yet, and any Abenaki had probably moved north to their winter quarters.

Along with Mozart, during that wonderful century, the voices of the philosophers Kant, Voltaire, and Rousseau were heard, voices that would reverberate like the music of Mozart down through the years. In this country, Jonathan Edwards was preaching fire and brimstone, and Benjamin Franklin was spreading a message of good common sense.

In Lisbon, Portugal, a year earlier, an earthquake had killed 30,000 people. No doubt Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin had different explanations for its occurrence. Nothing has changed there. An earthquake in the mountains of Pakistan that killed and displaced thousands has had its theological and scientific explanations today. Take your pick, the devastation remains the same.

Back to Billy Collins. Further along in the poem, after sharing what he had written with his wife, he wrote. “My wife hands these poems back to me/with a sigh./ She thinks I ought to be opening up/my aperture to let in ….. the world beyond my inkwell.”

So he does, and so did I, but then he returned, as do I, to the bird outside his window.

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center.

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