Snowflakes at Dusk

I’ve enjoyed photography since high school, when I had the opportunity to take a photography class (how lucky was I to attend a public school that thought photography was a good use of time and resources!) For many years my camera focused on our kids, but when digital photography became popular, I left the family photos to my son. Then a few years ago my husband bought me a Canon Rebel for my birthday–and I fell in love with photography again. I occasionally post birds and bugs on Facebook, and sometimes (although not often enough) I use my photos for poetry prompts.

Earlier this week I tried taking photos of snowflakes for the first time. I am no Snowflake Bentley, but I managed to get a decent shot of the flakes on our picnic table in the low afternoon light. When I posted it on Facebook with the caption “Snowflakes at dusk,” Matt Forrest Essenwine commented that it would be the perfect title for a poem. I decided to take his challenge.

snowflakeI started with a random list of impressions/thoughts from the afternoon snow:

speckles of white swirl and melt //fading light
Speckles of white in black fur
Slow drift
Perfect crystals before melting on jacket sleeves
Slip off pine needles
Cover crunchy ground with soft fluff
Bird tracks under feeder
Frozen ground crunches under black paws–

And then I wrote: What ties all this together??

Other than my being outside with the hound, I had no idea. I tried to focus on a small detail, and that led me to haiku. Although I admire haikus that I read online (like those by Robyn, Diane, and Liz) I’ve never really understood what makes them work. But far be that from stopping me–and I figured I could use my title as one line, so the poem was one-third written!  Here are a couple of mediocre attempts:

snowflakes at dusk–
new fluff softens
the frozen ground
–Buffy Silverman

snowflakes at dusk—
bird tracks fill
and disappear
–Buffy Silverman

Both of those felt a bit slight to me, but nothing else seemed to gel. When I was reading in bed that night (Circling the Sun by Paula McLain) I was taken by the descriptions of the African sky. McLain’s words sparked some ideas, and I jotted them down. In the morning, I turned my scribbles into this:

Snowflakes at Dusk

The air brims with flakes–
crystalline stars that drift and fall,
speckling black dogs and gray branches,
erasing bird tracks below the feeder,
muffling the crunch of frozen ground.
–Buffy Silverman

So there you go, Matt. Three poems for the price of one! If my snowflake photo inspires you, dear readers, please share a poem in the comments.

Happy Poetry Friday. Tabatha has this week’s round-up at The Opposite of Indifference.

45 thoughts on “Snowflakes at Dusk

  1. Carol Varsalona

    Buffy, I am returning to read your post one more time since I did not have time to comment on Friday. The photo you captured is truly amazing. The color, lighting, fading, and softened tone exemplify the close observational skills a photographer uses to convey meaning. The, you coupled it with equally lovely poems that evoke a silence and stillness of a winter evening. The line that grabs is “muffling the crunch of frozen ground”. If you like, I can place your photo and one of your poems in the next gallery or just your photo with the tile, Snowflakes at Dusk. Please let me know via gmail.

    Snowflake Bentley is one of my favorite stories that I have used in my classrooms during the winter months.

    Reply
  2. cb hanek

    As soon as I saw your amazing snowflake photo, I thought Buffy is the 2016 Snowflake Bentley! …And then you mentioned him! Thank you so much for sharing, not only the photo, which, for me, is gift enough!. but for sharing back story process and “finished” poem-products. (I say “finished,” in quotes, because as you witnessed, one rendition lead to another, which is why I never feel closure with anything I write, thinking always it could be different and/or better.) While I can’t take you up on your generous invitation to be inspired by your photo to create a version of our own to share in the comments, if/when I write something worthy of being in the same digital space as your photo, might I share it with you?Snowflakes are a special symbol for me. My husband gave me a snowflake pin and “carry-all.” I’m a fan of your photo and poems! God bless you! Thank you/

    Reply
  3. Penny Parker Klostermann

    Buffy,
    The photo is amazing! I can see why you were inspired. And, oh! Your inspiration led you to write three jewels. I love them all, but my favorite is Snowflakes at Dusk. The language in that poem is lovely!

    I’m glad you took Matt’s challenge!

    Reply
  4. Mary Lee Hahn

    Thank you for your process notes, your poems and — WOW — your photo. I think Snowflake Bentley would approve!

    Reply
  5. Catherine

    This is wonderful, Buffy! I love your photo, but really love the poetry you created from it. As I listen to fat raindrops pelt the porch roof outside my window, I’m wishing that there were “Crystalline stars” drifting and falling out there. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
  6. Violet N.

    Buffy, I enjoyed reading about your process (which resulted in some lovely poems). It affirms what I’m finding as I try to spend at least 30 minutes. on poetry most days: it helps to have a poetry challenge in mind and ideas are fed from a variety of sources, usually when one is away from one’s desk.

    Reply
    1. Buffy Silverman

      That’s a great goal, Violet–I should try it myself. During April I did a poetry exchange, and was really happy to be writing poetry every day. It’s hard to do without a challenge or some kind of accountability.

      Reply
  7. Heidi Mordhorst

    Speckling, erasing, muffling–Buffy, you have captured how ACTIVE snow feels even when we stare and marvel at its quite white blanket–and that is just what your photo captures, too! The dynamic details of a snowflake are all there. Yesterday I helped host a “Star Jar” party at my school and we folded, cut and decorated snowflakes “to call snow to Maryland, ” I said. It was similarly muffled and dynamic in the room as the kids worked. : )

    Reply
    1. Buffy Silverman

      I love that you’re calling snow with your kids–I remember folding and cutting those flakes and hanging them up on my window when I was a kid (and doing the same with my kids a whole bunch of years ago.)

      Reply
  8. Tabatha

    Hi Buffy! I was just at Heidi’s blog, talking about how much my kids want snow. My 14yo photographer would dearly love to take close-up shots of snow. I will have to show her your gorgeous pic. I loved what Robyn had to say about your second haiku. Really shows how it’s good to slow down when reading haiku and take it all in.

    Reply
    1. Buffy Silverman

      Yes, your daughter should try some snowflake photos! These were so fun to try to capture (and I had not done so before.) I used a fancy macro lens on a DSLR, but apparently you can take nice snowflake photos with a point-and-shoot if it has a macro setting.

      Reply
  9. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

    There is so much quiet and intricacy in both your photo and your poems. We are due to get some big snows next week, and reading your words today will make me look more closely at a few flakes. Amazing how those big old piles are made from such teeny wonders! Thank you for these beauties and for sharing your process – I loved reading how the poem shape shifted. Happy Poetry Friday! xo

    Reply
  10. Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

    Miranda is also lucky to have an art teacher who incorporates photography into their curriculum year round. It’s a wonderful medium– your photograph is positively magical, Buffy. ! I was going to argue about your second haiku, but I see Robyn has already made the case more eloquently than I ever could. Your last poem is beautiful as well. I’m going to let your photograph drift in the back of my mind, perhaps something will eventually come of it.

    Reply
    1. Buffy Silverman Post author

      I hope it inspires some poetry for you, Michelle–would like to see it if it does. (And yes, I also was glad that Robyn explained why that haiku worked because I didn’t see it.)

      Reply
  11. jama

    Very cool photo and your poems are just lovely! Enjoyed hearing about your process. Sigh. “Crystalline stars that drift and fall” . . . the last one is my favorite. 🙂

    Reply
  12. Linda Baie

    That picture is marvelous, Buffy. I enjoyed hearing all that you did after Matt’s nudge, and this “speckling black dogs and gray branches” is just right. It’s snowing right now, so I especially enjoyed your images that fit my day.

    Reply
  13. Robyn Hood Black

    What a wonderful post, Buffy! I am really enjoying these writer journeys today… just came from Amy’s, where she offered a peek into process (with a poem that also involved observing snow). Your final poem is lovely, and I would argue with you about one point re. the haiku – I don’t find this one slight at all:

    snowflakes at dusk—
    bird tracks fill
    and disappear

    It is actually quite haiku-like, in my book. It hearkens to the fleeting nature of existence, for one thing, which is not a small concept. Our own tracks will fill and disappear at some point, too. “Dusk” can even be loaded here – daylight about to disappear into night. A strong haiku suggests something larger than itself, so I think this one is successful! [My unsolicited two cents, and thanks for sharing your photo and poems.]

    Reply
  14. Liz

    Buffy, this post is just lovely. The picture is simply gorgeous and obviously inspirational. I too really love the last line of the second haiku. I also love crystalline stars. I hope we get at least one snow this winter. Happy Poetry Friday! Liz

    Reply
  15. KatApel

    The photograph is beautiful. I can’t believe that ‘ordinary snow’ looks like that. I guess I just thought the photos were in books, not real life… 😕 Your poems all have something special. I like what the last line does to the second haiku. And again, it’s the last line on your final poem. Those last lines make the whole poem work.

    Reply
  16. Pingback: Poetry Friday: winter haiku | Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

  17. Matt Forrest Esenwine

    Great job, Buffy! I’m glad you took the challenge. I took it, as well – although I have not been able to nail down one of my two poems, I did get a haiku written, which I’m sharing on my blog. Have a good weekend, and best wishes with those snowflake photos! (The name “Snowflake Silverman” DOES have a ring to it)

    Reply

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