Ghosts of First Snows Past

Today was the reception in memory of Brad. When I came outside from the church to go home, it was spitting snow, the first of the season. The Japanese have a term for first snow – hatsuyuki. It is considered a quiet and holy event. The snow did not stick but the snowflakes swirled wonderfully.  This is for Fireblossom’s prompt at Sunday Muse BlogSpot.  She explains that southerners have a tradition of bottle trees.  We had one when I was growing up.  I have one now, bottles from that old tree and from a private collection. A friend in Beaufort, NC has one of the old homes.  When they excavated their basement, they dug up thousands of opium bottles.  It seems the original mistress of the house was an opium addict and buried the bottles rather than have her secret come out.  My friend took the bottles to the Duke lab nearby and had them irradiated (she worked there).  The older bottles turned a deep purple, the newer bottles a pale aquamarine.

Ghosts of First Snows Past
“All Heaven and Earth
Flowered white obliterate…
Snow…unceasing snow”
― Hashin, Japanese Haiku

the temperature dropped from 56 degrees
to 25 in a couple of hours.
the first snow began to fall,
swirling like tiny white butterflies.
the bottles hanging on my crepe myrtle
hung perfectly still.
bottles of purple, blue, aquamarine, clear.
some were new and some were
perilously old –
two hundred or more years old.
they hadn’t done much trapping of spirits
but they sparkled gloriously in the sun,
shivered in the rain,
slept through the snow.
I walked from the car to the bottle tree
and touched some of them gently.
I thought about you and the first snow.
I remembered our first snow together.
It came in the night as we lay
together under my old quilt.
I felt it in my dreams
and I went to the window.
I awakened you and we stood with our arms
wrapped around each other,
watching the snow.
I touch the empty bottles and wonder –
are we caught in one of them,
held together for all time?

29 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sherry Marr
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 13:22:24

    Toni, what an emotional day it must have been for you. I am intrigued by the haul of bottles discovered in your friend’s basement. I love old bottles and would love to have a bottle tree, if I had a yard, and a tree. Smiles. You not only have one, but it is a crepe myrtle! I have only just learned the significance of that. How poignant, the memory of your first snowfall with your husband, as snow fell after his memorial. Somehow, I think his spirit must have been near, wrapping his arms around you.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jan 19, 2020 @ 13:25:58

      Bless you Sherry for your comment. I have always had a bottle tree. I make one once from a strong branch I found while walking and “planted” it in a pot of dirt on my balcony, strung a few bottles from it. It was soothing having it outside my window and hearing the tinkling of it sometimes.

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      Reply

    • Helen L Dehner
      Jan 24, 2020 @ 13:15:11

      Do as I do … a table top bottle tree. LOL

      Reply

  2. merrildsmith
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 13:51:49

    So much here, and so many emotions. There is something magical about the first snow, and it swirling around on those bottles. . .and the memories . . . your spirits co-mingled. . . all drifting together.

    Reply

  3. fireblossom32
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 14:03:56

    sparkled/shivered/slept….those were my favorite three lines.

    Reply

  4. Magaly Guerrero
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 14:55:32

    Toni, that ending is just… so perfectly bittersweet. The balance between the beauty of the tree, the depths of the loss, and the power of the question makes the closing feel like a sigh that comes straight from the heart.

    Reply

  5. Carrie V. H.
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 15:31:55

    Though it carries so much grief this beautiful and poignant writing is my favorite of your poetry and prose. Touching and lovely. I too think Brad’s spirit must have been near. 💙🙏

    Reply

  6. Regine Karpel
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 16:19:17

    Beautiful

    Reply

  7. Mary
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 17:33:51

    This is a very powerful write, Toni. I feel it through and through. What a hard time you are going through….and, oh, the memories. This poem touched me greatly. I am sure Brad must feel your love.

    Reply

  8. Beverly Crawford
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 18:26:18

    I’ve walked where you walk, my friend. It is hard to go on alone when you’ve been half of a pair; but, inexplicably, life can be good again eventually. Hold your memories close. I loved the story of the opium bottles, by the way.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jan 19, 2020 @ 20:48:55

      Thank you. You and Rosemary encourage me. My mother survived this path. I have good examples of courage me. I am trying so hard. It is so hard though.

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  9. Rosemary Nissen-Wade
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 19:47:44

    I thought the back story was wonderfully written – then I read the poem, which surpasses it. Such a beautiful, tender memory, so beautifully and tenderly told.

    I trust the memorial service was a source of love and comfort, among other things.

    Like Beverly, I’ve walked this road, and I echo what she says. Also I’m glad you are writing, and staying connected to the writing community – that helped me, in my time.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jan 19, 2020 @ 20:46:46

      Thank you Rosemary. People tell me this who have survived. These are encouraging words although at this point, it hardly seems possible. I am writing and trying to communicate without being too whiny or angry about Brad’s death. I am grateful for your words.

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      Reply

  10. Sumana Roy
    Jan 20, 2020 @ 01:00:21

    What moved me deeply in this poem is its very soft, tender touch, from fond memories to the downy flakes around and the profound love.

    Reply

  11. kim881
    Jan 20, 2020 @ 03:34:21

    A difficult day for you, Toni, and you have survived it and poured your grief into beautiful words. How wonderful that it snowed for Brad. I love how you incorporated the anecdote about the opium bottles into your poem in the lines:
    ‘they hadn’t done much trapping of spirits
    but they sparkled gloriously in the sun,
    shivered in the rain,
    slept through the snow’.
    The memory of your first snow together is so touching, and the final lines made me cry.

    Reply

  12. hhennenburg
    Jan 20, 2020 @ 12:20:50

    Oh, Toni, what a beautiful and, I hope, comforting thought. There is so much love and meaning woven throughout this piece. I hope the writing is as supportive to you as it is impactful for your readers. Sending love.

    Reply

  13. susanstoo
    Jan 20, 2020 @ 13:27:05

    Hauntingly beautiful! I suspect the answer is yes, you two are held somewhere, if not in the bottle, then in the heart. I love the link of past and present here, the prose story you tell about the buried opium bottles that you had irradiated and the colors/sparkles twirling now in the crepe myrtle. I remember those trees from living in Williamsburg VA, though I never saw a bottle tree. Only after your poem am I tempted to hang them–the phrase reminded me too much of “strange fruit.” Your poem makes them beautiful again.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jan 20, 2020 @ 13:40:02

      Thank you. BTW bottle trees are not even vaguely related to “strange fruit”. O have seen all manner of bottles hanging from the trees – whiskey and wine bottles, vinegar, vanilla flavoring.

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  14. sanaarizvi
    Jan 20, 2020 @ 14:44:44

    I read this beautiful poem with one hand on my heart .. the closing lines are raw with emotion!

    Reply

  15. Margaret Elizabeth Bednar
    Jan 20, 2020 @ 18:42:46

    If not in the bottle together, surely elsewhere – Love is for eternity. I’ve lost loved ones and it is so hard, but no children, no husband. I hold them closer to me, (I shouldn’t need any reminders, right?) when I hear others go through what you have had to bear. It seems to me poetry is helping in some way… it has been amazing. Hugs.

    Reply

  16. Victoria C. Slotto
    Jan 20, 2020 @ 21:13:46

    Oh my friend, this gave me the chills. So very poignant. Learned today about another friend who died of pancreatic cancer last week and her husband has just learned he has the same diagnosis. We are at that age where loss and emptiness visits all too often. Be blessed, my dear.

    Reply

  17. jaerose37
    Jan 21, 2020 @ 05:26:19

    What a touching poem

    Reply

  18. Susie Clevenger
    Jan 21, 2020 @ 17:02:17

    Your poem went straight to my heart.

    Reply

  19. Michelle Denness
    Jan 23, 2020 @ 10:21:39

    Beautiful 🙏

    Reply

  20. Helen L Dehner
    Jan 24, 2020 @ 13:20:25

    Heartbreaking, touching, breathtaking … not enough words to do your work justice.

    Reply

  21. Rall
    Jan 27, 2020 @ 01:38:29

    He was very young. I am so sorry for your loss.I remember you said he was in hospital for Christmas and when I just read something about thank you notes I twigged. I cannot imagine what you are going through at the moment.Writing poems will help a little I think….I hope you are eating some good chicken vegetable broth to keep your strength up. Stay strong. Prayers and thoughts.

    Reply

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