The Frost and the Boughs
Although I grew up mostly in England, I have lived in Appalachia for over 15 years now. I’ve raised my daughter here, and my father and his family and their ancestors are from here. Strangely, though, as my love for photography and landscapes across the world has grown and flourished, my connection to Appalachian lands has remained tenuous, shifting, uncomfortable. Fear and uncertainty often characterize my solo experiences in these forests and mountains. Spring and summer’s lush green chaos blankets the subtleties I seek. Gentle moments and elegant, refined scenes remain hidden. I find it hard to see.
But winter is different… For many, it is a bare, bleak time of the year, a season to dread, to tolerate. But for some, such as the narrator in Wallace Stevens’s “The Snow Man,” it is a time to see clearly, to regard and behold the land, to find clarity and simplicity, wonder and beauty there. For those willing to set aside negative emotions and expectations, winter can cast a clear light on the land, unburdened by our inner narrative. Winter can illuminate.
In my series “The Frost and the Boughs,” I explore the winter landscapes of the Appalachian mountains and forests. Ice, frost and snow lighten and brighten, fog simplifies. Pale blues dominate, sometimes punctuated with the warm golden glow of the sun or the faded yellows and oranges of grasses left over from seasons before. Rhythm and pattern reveal themselves. In these scenes, I find what I seek. I hear the quiet. I see the sparkle. I feel the delicious cold.
The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.