Snow Days Open Up Cracks in Time

snowy-woods1An unusually heavy snowstorm has locked us into our homes these past few days, cancelling my Monday classes and locking down the county. Years ago, in an essay I’d love to find again, an author wrote about the “found time” of a snow day.   She noted that, because we normally believe we must make every minute count, the sudden appearance of unscheduled time seems a marvel.

On a snow day it’s as though we have been given permission to do something “frivolous” or even nothing at all.  We look up from our mad dash and see things we have been missing.  There may be those who use snow days to catch up on work (the internet has changed the dynamics of these off days), but in doing so they waste a precious opportunity to enter sacred time.  Work will always be with us but not this gift from the heavens.

The snow turns us inward.  Robert Frost, stopping by woods on a snowy evening, finds himself drawn into profound meditation.  His horse, indoctrinated into human routine, may think it queer that they are stopping with no farmhouse near, but Frost feels suddenly compelled to stop and ponder the meaning of life.  Lovely, dark and deep?  Beauty, mystery, and death.

Then, like his horse giving its bells a shake, Frost too shakes himself and returns to harness.  He has promises to keep, routines to follow, obligations ahead of him.  But that pause in the snow is like a snow day.  Time hangs suspended.

“Stopping by Woods” is, along with “The Road Not Taken,” America’s best known poem.  Frost reports that it came to him all but written, appearing as though from nowhere.  Snow days work like that as well, opening up a crack in the time-space continuum.   Revelation awaits.

In case you need reminding, here’s the poem:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Why We Should Stop Fouling Our Nest on December 29, 2010 at 1:00 am

    […] We’ve had a fair amount of snow this past year. I wrote three consecutive posts on snow poems (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and two poems by Robert Frost) when our college was closed down for close to a week last February. If you are struggling with snow at the moment, feel free to go back and visit them, starting with this one. […]

  2. By The Frolic Architecture of the Snow on January 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

    […] a past post on Frost’s “Stopping by Woods,” I have noted that a snow day is “found time,” providing us an opportunity to break with normal […]


  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

  • Sign up for weekly newsletter

    Your email will not be shared or sold.
    * = required field

    powered by MailChimp!
  • Twitter Authentication data is incomplete