I’m trying to stop hating winter, honest. Though it’s one of those ebb and flow type things, three steps forward two steps back. I’ve hated winter all my life, mostly due to loving summer so much, where I’ve quite happily read and swam and even cultivated something somewhere close to inner peace, never fully there but close enough. I’m an accidental binary-enthusiast, polarized in loving things, a Gemini, all in or all out. But to my credit, there is nothing I love more than being surprised, ever-willing to be proven wrong.
I grew up memorizing poetry, a habit that grew out of a desire to please my father. He was a rigid and technical man, with a soft spot for William Blake. See? Surprise! To this day “The Tyger,” “Oh Captain! My Captain!,” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” repeat around my head, line by line, during any number of monotonous and thoughtless tasks. I’ve been trying this past year to encourage stillness inside of myself, but I can’t yet argue the worth of an eloquent sentence in its wake.
The poets my father read were always fixated around nature. I couldn’t discern if that was due to his love of it or my own, but found it ever intriguing that they somehow appealed to us both. We seemed to love nature so differently—I seemed to love it so much more. Perhaps at ten years old, love is just immovably, incomparably in plain sight. Looking back, I wish he had read me more female poets—any queer poets—but a part of me was glad to find both on my own. Poetry was a seed planted in me by my father, but I tilled the land till it grew. Due to our combined efforts, everything flourished. At thirteen, I was already engulfed by philosophy—transcendentalism became religion and art in one broad sweep. My first copy of Leaves of Grass is illegible, its margins a battlefield of graphite and ink.
I think Mary Oliver puts it best (as always) when she writes, “Pay Attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it.” That’s my motto, as well as everything else she has ever penned. (I even have her quote, “walk slowly, bow often” tattooed on my chest). With all of this culture of praise, of silent and precious and unfaltering awe—I still haven’t been able to bring myself to love winter, the very chill of it feeling like a natural antonym of said qualities. But in the good, true, fair practice of Mary and Walt, I’ve been trying to wrestle my way into compassion.
Today, I picked up my dearest friend from his home, holding nothing but a great wooden toboggan, the kind I haven’t seen outside of Charlie Brown cartoons. We, well past childhood and even teenagehood somehow, spent close to three hours running up and sledding down a very steep hill. I can pinpoint the moment, right after we pushed the comical thing in the general direction of down, that I felt so in tune with everything, so divinely connected with the ground, my companion, and yes, even the toboggan, that at once loving something as fleetingly beautiful as winter didn’t seem a hard task at all.
Reading work from Sundress Publications has always left me in a similar position. Feeling connection, newness, awe all over. It’s this, and so much else, that leaves me in almost-wordless gratitude that I am able to contribute to a space that continually pushes for creative and accessible writing. And it is in the spirit of my great transcendentalist lineage that I offer to it nothing but open-mindedness, open-heartedness, and sacred appreciation.
Finnegan Angelos is a self-proclaimed east-coast-love-struck-queer-awakening poet and essayist originally from northern Baltimore County, Maryland. His work has been published in the Beyond Queer Words Anthology, Thistle Magazine, and FRANCES, and has work forthcoming in EPOCH. He loves his dog, hibiscus tea, and the banjo.