Josna Rege

169. At the Gates of Dawn

In 2010s, Books, Nature, Stories, United States, writing on January 16, 2013 at 12:12 am


Yesterday morning, after several grey, dismal days, the winter sun burst out of the January gloom, streaming watery-bright through the rising mist of melting snow, and I snapped this photograph. A fragment from a beloved children’s book springs to mind, though it wasn’t dawn. (Strange, that although The Wind in the Willows was one of my first books, I don’t remember ever having read Chapter Seven. Perhaps I  skimmed right over it, mystified.)

Suddenly the sky was washed clear, and we caught a glimpse of what Spring might look like when at last it came. As hard-bitten New Englanders, we knew better than to raise our hopes. But the earth and the woods remain perennially open to the unexpected. Another fragment wafts in on the almost-balmy not-quite breeze, promising,

. . for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—


The January thaw—if that is what it was and not more evidence of global warming—has robbed the fields of their snow cover and taken off with it. The puddles have evaporated, too, and the bare, muddy ground has contracted and hardened. Icy fingers of frost are infiltrating everywhere. Snow is forecast again in the early morning hours, and tomorrow threatens to deliver what the weathermen up this way call a “wintry mix.” But I hear the midnight train rumbling by just across the back fields: moving on, as will Old Man Winter, one of these days.

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

  1. Your snapshot and story remind me of my childhood in the UP (Michigan) – perhaps not so different from the Northeast… But the line that smacked me upside the head was the midnight train. That train ran all the way from my 5 year old’s memory to my current love of bluegrass at age 69. Listen; we can still hear it:

    Love you,

    • Steven! My first comment from you—thank you! I love “Old Train”; one I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. I never tire of train songs, and I’m listening to more Seldom Scene now. I have written one story on trains and train journeys (you might like to check out “From a Railway Carriage”), but there’s room for more, perhaps one on train songs themselves. What is it about hearing that lonesome whistle blow? Love, J

  2. Very poetic! Love the imagery.

    • Thank you, Slo-Man. My prose is usually rather plain and unadorned, so I tend to worry a bit when I give my dreamy, romantic self freer rein. I’ve visited your blog–both halves of it–and like what I’ve read so far, on both sides. Will be following it now. Best wishes, J

      • Josna,

        Worry? No! Keep it coming. Thanks for spending time on our blog. We do not get a lot of readers so every kind word and every reader is treasured.

        The blog is so varied because we have not yet figured out what our voice sounds like. Some day soon, we hope!

  3. I don’t even have to check to know what part of “The Wind in the Willows” you’re talking about: it’s the morning when Toad and Ratty (or whoever it was) come across Pan, right? I must have breezed over it as a kid, too, because I had no memory of it whatsoever when I read it a couple of years ago.

    Beautiful photographs, beautiful snips of poetry, and your always beautiful writing.

    • That’s the chapter, Sarah. The piper at the gates of dawn is none other than Pan himself. Interesting, isn’t it, that both our young selves skipped over it somehow? And yes, aren’t those photos luminous? I came out of yoga that weirdly warm, misty moisty morning just as the sun came out. x J

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