Last week was a hard bit the winter, the coldest that we have encountered so far this season with just enough ice and snow on the ground to be a nuisance. And it has also been a week of starkly quiet solitude with just the radio and the dogs to keep me company.
When I wasn't out tending to the other creatures that live at the farm, scattering feed or busting the ice out of their watering bowls, I was usually inside working my winter project: the indexing and proof-reading of my two-hundred-and-forty-two genealogy newspaper columns that I penned a quarter of a century ago. Those columns, which ran in fifteen small Ozark newspapers at one time or another, were built on queries sent in by readers from across the United States who were trying to learn more about their Ozark roots. At times, over the nearly five years that the weekly column ran, queries would be slow in arriving and I would supplement with tales from my own family's long Ozark history.
The column was called "Rootbound in the Hills." It is, for the time being at least, still available elsewhere on the internet. That may change if I am able to secure a publisher for the collected columns. Anyone desiring a complementary surname index to the columns may contact me through this blog.
As I carefully reread each of the genealogy columns, I come across tidbits of my personal family history, some supplied by people whom I've never even met. That sets my mind to wandering. I think that is why I found today's poem, "Winter Night" by Edna St. Vincent Millay so appealing. As I read it, I could feel the warmth coming off of an old country wood stove, perhaps with a chicken stewing atop it in a well worn pot, and an old lady sitting by the fire and enjoying the quiet solitude of her declining years. She is, I think, a widow, perhaps a Sreaves, or a Roark or a Pritchard - someone who endured so much, so well, to pave the way for the rest of us.
There is a half-full wood box sitting behind the stove, upon which a cat sleeps soundly.
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Pile high the hickory and the light
Log chestnut struck by the blight.
Welcome-in the winter night.
The day has gone in hewing and felling,
Sawing and drawing wood to the dwelling
For the night of talk and storytelling.
There are the hours that give the edge
To the blunted ax and the bent wedge,
Straighten the saw and lighten the sledge.
Here are question and reply,
And the fire reflected in the thinking eye.
So peace, and let the bobcat cry.