Saturday, January 31, 2015

Veil of Choices

Veil of Choices

The beam of a street lamp, a sword of light,
Honed razor sharp by the crystalline air,
Pierces the black veil: a dark moonless night
Drawn between friends and the love that they share.
Separated by shadow and sorrow,
Hearts hiding deep within walls of remorse,
Dream they might reconcile on the morrow,
But only if fate determines their course.
Neither will venture in, out of the dark,
When fear of rejection shadows their souls.
They dare not gamble that love's tiny spark,
Can rekindle fire from barely warm coals.
Fear stays their hearts, silences their voices,
To weep in darkness for fear of choices.

Mick McKellar
January 2015

To know for certain, you must choose to act.


Friday, January 30, 2015

White in Wintertime

White in Wintertime

The shadowed daylight spoke of cold to come;
So softly telling tales of falling snow,
With frigid blasts to leave cold fingers numb,
And massive drifts of whiteness, built below
The curtained windows facing to the West.
Big snowflakes, dancing shadows in the light,
All scurried back and forth to find their rest,
And sighing, noiseless, faded from my sight.
Enchanted by the silent dance in white,
I stood, and rapt attention fixed my gaze
At once, upon the bleakness of the sight,
Of delicate and deadly winter days.
I reveled in the energetic mime,
This deadly dance of white in Wintertime.

Mick McKellar
January 2015

As you can probably guess, I spend a great deal of time looking out my windows at snow falling day and night, here in the Keweenaw. It has an eerie beauty all its own.




I stride the clouds with terror in my wake,
And chase the setting sun through twilight skies.
I roam beneath, as stars' cold diamond eyes
All witness when I sail the midnight lake.
I watch your mighty races rise and fall,
Their tallest towers naught but broken sticks.
I whisper to the blessed lunatics,
The only ones who hear my siren's call.
Tall mountains offer me no place to hide,
Though travels carry me past yonder hill.
When new, the wise detect my presence still:
My passage often alters time and tide.
Because you've heard the songs about me crooned,
You shouldn't be surprised when you get mooned...

Mick McKellar
January 2015

I sing a song of the silver surfer, traversing the indigo depths of the midnight sky.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lost in White

Lost in White

Winter's frigid fingers search for gaps,
Seeking chinks in my thermal armor,
Probing past my shuttered collar,
Ignoring both scarf and sweater,
Slicing their gelid grasp past all guards.

Wind shoves me with sleeted, frozen hands,
That push warmth from marrow of my bones;
Riming skin with bitter frosting,
Grating nerves that burn with numbness,
Till the chill brings stone-silent fatigue.

Soft and white, my crystal blanket falls.
Tenderly, the frost wind tucks me in.
Quietly, the cold wind whispers,
Calling me to tranquil slumber,
Dreaming long dreams of a distant Spring.

Mick McKellar
January 2015

What would it be like to hibernate? Would it be a softer, friendlier version of freezing to death? Some days, just opening the front door brings these thoughts to mind.


Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Bleak Winds, Warm Snow

Bleak Winds, Warm Snow 
A story of those voices whispering in the wind...

As black winds polish snow throughout the night,
Sculpting sweeping curves with amazing grace,
The bitter touch of frost upon my face,
Grants me a waking dream, also the sight
To watch the winter winds dance through that space.

My name was Malachi and I ride the winds of the Keweenaw. I’m drawn to this place on cold winter nights for its bleak beauty, for memories that still haunt me, and for a purpose. I have issues: I owe a debt of gratitude to someone and I search for him where death stalks the night. My purpose: to ask what I can do to repay his kindness to me on the night I died.

Memories of my life are faint and confusing. There were children and a wife who grieved at my passing, but not too much, for I was not a loving person. I see their faces, but forget their names. For a time, I watched over them as they grew old and had brief reunions when each transitioned to this place, this plane. However, the reunions were short as each moved on, and I remained to fulfill my quest, to balance the books that kept me from finding peace.

Memories of my death replayed constantly through my thoughts and remained graven, stark and bleak, upon my consciousness. An anchor for my spirit, those reflections of a black night long past held me here, kept me searching for the man in rags.

I remember it was December, a bright cold morning when overnight snow painted the balsams and the tamaracks with a fine brush. Four of us were hunting in the forest near Eagle River in high hopes of making venison sausage for Christmas. It was early in the winter season and the tracking snow was good. Blue skies, boyhood friends, and best intentions, what could go wrong?

Our plan was to hunt in two groups of two, heading southeast toward Gratiot Lake for about four hours. If we found nothing, we would return, following our tracks to Eagle River. If successful, a signal of two rapid shots would bring the other group to help haul the catch home. I think the plan would have worked had not the sudden lake effect snowstorm changed everything.

Tom and Reino started out two degrees north of our base course, Albert and I headed two degrees south. Two hours into our walk, the wind shifted suddenly to the NNW and it began to snow heavily. We walked on for about a half-hour and called a halt.

“It’s not stopping!” Yelled Albert over the rising wind, “We must turn back!” He reached for his compass, but it had fallen from its lanyard somewhere back on our trail.

“Backtrack as long as we can!” I shouted and lead the way back. Or so I thought.

After about 15 minutes of trudging through the mounting drifts, our trail was no longer visible and I turned to ask Albert what he thought, but Albert was nowhere to be seen. I shouted his name into the mounting howl of the wind and blank wall of whirling snow. Once I thought I heard a rifle shot off to my left, so I headed that way. In the uniform white, I could not see any sun or shadow to help me gauge direction, and tried to steer by keeping the wind to my right.

Time was not slowing, but I was. I knew if I kept onward in one direction, I would reach a road, a river, or the shore of Lake Superior and could follow any one of those to find help. So far, however, I found nothing but trees, underbrush, and blowing snow. Soon, I noted that all was growing dim. It was nearly 6 PM and night was just over the next hill.

As the light failed, I found Lake Superior rather abruptly. I heard the waves crashing ahead and hurried forward, right over the edge of a 30 foot embankment. As I fell, I swear I heard voices in the wind. When I regained consciousness, it was fully dark, my left leg was obviously broken -- it should not stick out at that angle -- but I felt little pain except for a rather nasty headache.

I cursed myself for a fool and tried to think what to do next. I was lying at an odd angle across a large rock poking through ice forming at the shoreline. My arms were fine and I tried to sit up, but my back and legs were numb and refused to respond. Tears formed in my eyes as I realized my situation was hopeless. Unless someone found me soon, if I didn’t bleed out, I would freeze to death. I cried and shouted for help. Alternately, I prayed to and cursed God, as if He had put me here. After 20 or so minutes of screaming and thrashing about with my arms, I lay back and laughed at myself. It was the hopeless and mirthless laugh of the brave and the insane. I decided on insane, because I was now hearing voices in the wind, voices that soon resolved into a single voice singing loud and strong. I heard:

When the black winds push the white snow along,
And the big lake’s voice revels in a roar,
A traveler finds he can roam no more,
And finds himself listening to a song,
As he freezes on Superior’s shore.

The voice became a shadow and the shadow a pile of rags with an old man inside. The old man smiled at me and with strength belied by his size, lifted me to lean against the frozen bank, facing out of the wind and toward Lake Superior. He sat down opposite me and sang once more:

The caress of the ice-dream is so cold,
That at first it feels like the sting of fire;
Yet its deeper kiss will deep sleep inspire,
And the soul so blessed may be well consoled,
It departs upon a painless white pyre

As he sang, his face changed from aged to ageless and his rags became a colorful costume befitting a minstrel. A lute appeared in his hands, and as he played it a green fire burned between them. The heat of the fire did not burn me, but cleansed me of all pain and made me feel nearly weightless.

The power within the old Minstrel’s song,
Severs your ties with the stark, earthly plane,
Ends your daily worries, and salves your pain.
So release fear and heartache, move along,
Fly away, to never return again!

I stood without effort, glancing back at the now empty and frozen body upon the shore, and started forward toward a welcoming light flashing along the shore. Something about the ageless being and his kind eyes caused me to turn back, just to thank him for his company. As I did so, the green light winked out and I was alone on the beach. The welcoming light was also gone, and I felt alone and abandoned.

For awhile, I don’t know how long, I wandered along that beach and in the surrounding woods, seeking the Minstrel. I asked questions of passersby, but they only flinched and looked about with terrified eyes as they heard a whisper on the wind.

Years later, I saw the green fire again, near an auto accident on the highway and rushed to talk with the Minstrel. He did not seem surprised to see me coming towards him. He smiled and sang just two verses for me:

As black winds polish snow throughout the night,
Sculpting sweeping curves with amazing grace,
The bitter touch of frost upon your face,
Granted you a waking dream, and the sight
To watch the winter winds dance through that space.

To me you have been a long-valued friend,
Your whispers have been a life-saving guide:
Warning many who surely would have died!
Your journey of gratitude soon will end;
Your family waits on the other side

In a flash of green light, he was gone. I realized I had not uttered a word; I’d not said, “Thank you.” Yet, I knew it was not necessary and that my journey would soon end. Reaching to grasp the ever-present wind, I stopped.

Was that a bright and welcoming light coming along the beach?

Was that my family?

Mick McKellar
January 2015

Don't ignore those voices in the wind. They might just have sound advice for you!


Thursday, January 01, 2015

Snow Snake

Snow Snake
A snow snake egg?

Twas winter, when a dear old friend,
Came home to see me from the coast.
Of all my friends, he was the most
Gregarious, and to that end,
I sought to be the perfect host.

To entertain him was my thought,
Because of that, I would arrange,
To show him something really strange -
Maybe something that I had caught,
Or something normal I could change.

Like Barnum, I began to plan,
A sideshow and menagerie;
And weird and wild stuff was the key,
For my old buddy was a fan,
Of ev'ry strange anomaly.

The high point of our winter fun,
The star of my icy sideshow,
A cold and reclusive fellow —
I'll bet that you never saw one:
A Serpent of the Winter Snow

I chuckled as I grabbed my rake,
Elated by my little prank.
I visualized them rank on rank —
The tiny holes that I would make,
In a large and sheltered snow bank.

I poked the handle in the snow.
I dragged the tip upon the ground,
Making tracks that went all around,
From hole to hole — as snakes would go,
And deep enough so they'd be found.

I told him of the serpents white,
The snow snakes of the Keweenaw;
The critters that we seldom saw,
But gave a nasty little bite,
From tiny teeth in unhinged jaw.

I showed him, then, my bogus nest,
The snow snake city I had made,
The tiny tracks that I had laid.
And as I showed him all the rest,
He very close attention paid.

I told him that they ate small mice,
And that they hunted late at night,
Depending on their skin of white,
Blending with the snow and ice,
To keep them hidden from our sight.

I knew I had him hooked you see.
He looked at me with big wide eyes...
He'd purchased all my awful lies,
He'd bought the package, totally;
And now, I'd give him a surprise.

Worried that the news would rankle,
I tried to smile most charmingly.
When I stepped close to snake city,
Something bit me on the ankle,
And moved so fast I could not see.

I stood still, I'd had a big shock —
Could not believe what I saw there:
Red drops on the ground everywhere,
And blood was spreading on my sock,
Dripped from a tiny ragged tear.

The disbelief was on my face.
I did not know where to begin.
To think that I had been done in,
By something I had put in place!
You can imagine my chagrin...

My friend helped me to the doctor,
A fam'ly friend who knew me well,
And so I felt that I could tell.
What I told her really rocked her -
The story - difficult to sell.

As she cleaned and dressed the small break,
(Which was beginning to hurt now),
I tried to explain to her how,
I'd been bitten by a snow snake
But, doubt was written on her brow.

Peace and quiet was my desire,
But, everyone knew me by sight.
All the town knew of my snake bite —
Of course the story spread like fire,
And people called me day and night.

Years have passed since my fiasco,
Forgotten should my story be!
Tried to put it all behind me...
Tried to bury Barnum's sideshow,
But people won't forget, you see.

I think I have learned a lesson,
About the risks that one should take,
When trying a small joke to make:
It is best not to go messin',
With the Keweenaw Snow Snake.
Mick McKellar
February 2003

A few of my friends, worried about my "dark side," have asked me to lighten up a bit. So, today I tell the incredible (but absolutely true...;-) story of an encounter with the legendary Keweenaw Snow Snake. We've all tried the gambit when a friend or relative from a warm place comes to visit - poking holes in a snow bank with a rake handle (or broom handle, or shovel handle), so we can try to convince our prey that the holes are snow snake tunnels. Sounds like great fun, but what if...