SOLASTALGIA AND "THE SNOW MAN"
|Image: Mirja Pljakka/by kind permission|
I woke before dawn to distant low rumbling and a whistle, faint and attenuated: the early freight train moving through the valley. Snow had fallen overnight, enough to insulate the house a little and to reveal the tracks of creatures that move around outside it: squirrels, wild turkeys, propane delivery truck, us.
"One must have a mind of winter," goes Wallace Stevens' poem "The Snow Man", to meet its beauty -- "junipers shagged with ice," "distant glitter," the sound of wind in dry leaves -- and not to "think / Of any misery" there.
I could say the passing train sounded lonely, or cold, or plangent. It did stir those feelings. I could note that the snow over the chrysanthemums struck some grief-chord that chrysanthemums without a snow cover don't.
What would it mean to have a mind of winter? Out there things are cold, still, dormant. Would it be a mind like that? Or would it be a mind like a hibernating creature, one that steers its actions toward preservation, conservation, efficiency?
Cultivating a mind of winter in our era, the sixth great species extinction, might be useful. Every day we learn of more loss. Many of us are experiencing solastalgia, distress caused by environmental change, a boundless grief for past and future, and seeking ways to cope with it, feeling helpless.
To "behold / Nothing that is not there," Stevens writes, one must quiet the imagination and allow oneself to become "nothing," part of "the nothing that is." That's one mind of winter.
Then from there, from the other mind of winter, to act.
Here's a trailer for the short film Solastalgia directed by Millefiore Clarkes, written by Tanya Davis and another short film, same title, directed by Pascal Tremblay and Sean Stiller, written by Craig Santos Perez.