There are nights in the winter
once the leaves have fallen away,
when sometimes I wake in the dark,
hearing the distant, plaintive sound
of a single train a few miles away
as it crosses over a country road
or maybe it’s to warn off deer
that pause too long on the track.
The train travels due north,
and in the blackness of the night
the train’s dark sounding
brings back fragmented images
of my childhood life up north.
North, where winter’s silver skies
are layered in clouds most
of the year, and where snow
begins to fall early and deep.
North, where my family lived
in the rust belt of Lake Erie,
where strong winds raced across
the lake with bone-chilling cold.
The lake effect meant snowstorms
that went on for hours, even days
on end. Times when all of us gathered
together happily, knowing school
would be cancelled the next day.
Night was peaceful back then.
In the morning, we’d make our
way through the thigh high snow
and help shovel the walk, leaving
tall tunnels of snow on either side.
Our boots would crunch on frozen
snow, fingers painfully cold, but
that never stopped us from a snowball
fight or playing king of the mountain,
or sledding, tumbling, rolling in snow,
or making lovely snow angels
all over the yard. Those were the
carefree days of childhood, when
we didn’t worry about time or the
future or much of anything.
And for a while the thick snow
continued to fall, covering the tracks
of cars, birds and anything else
that dared to wander outside
on those interminable winter days.
Now, no longer in the north,
I lie in bed remembering such
simple times, times of being together
as we coasted down the snow hills,
all six of us tucked in tightly together
until halfway down when the toboggan
shifted and just after the pull to the left,
we capsized, all of us scattered down the hill,
laughter ringing out so loud as we fell,
each of us ready to give it a go again.
My thanks to the photographer, Iosatel, for use of the photograph, Due North, which appeared on his blog, The Obvious and the Hidden, 03/11/2014