It’s the time of year when things start to shift. Skies open and seem larger; stars sharpen and a cool chill seeps into our mornings. “Winter,” a poem by Carol Wade Lundberg, captures the magic of the changing seasons.

Lundberg was a beloved poet in Sonoma County who died this fall. Her poem is a small and narrow poem but, like an ancient redwood, it casts a long shadow. For example, the poem begins by setting the mood of winter: the changes of light and the fact that because the leaves fall from the trees, in winter we can see things more clearly.

She means this in two ways, though. It’s not just our outer view, the neighbor’s field, the ash of road. It’s also our inner thoughts that winter can open to us and help us see more clearly.

The poem moves swiftly, with short lines and little punctuation to slow it down. Embedded in the poem are many familiar idioms that have been changed: “Don’t cry over spilt milk” and “let sleeping dogs lie.” By changing what is familiar to us, Lundberg disrupts what we expect to read in the poem, thereby opening up a new, fresh meaning in these tired words.

As the poem closes, it speeds up and sheds all punctuation, becoming as bare as a winter tree. Winter can be a time of contemplation and memory, a time to find “what you have/ buried under/ the house.” It can be a time to face what is in you and carry on, a time to “face the terror/ of a clean slate.” May we all walk into this new season with the bravery this poem suggests.

Iris Jamahl Dunkle is Sonoma County’s 2016 Poet Laureate. Contact her at iris.dunkle@gmail.com.

“Winter”
by Carol Wade Lundberg
1935-2016

Light Parallel
to the ground. Sky
empty of leaves.
Time to bed
down with whoever
you can reach
to mend fences
close barn
doors stop
crying over spilt
milk. Time
to remember
what you have
buried under
the house where
you think you
live read between
the lines wake
sleeping dogs
face the terror
of a clean slate.