Monday, March 23, 2009

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

I'm not sure how old I was when I first read Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening". I had certainly read quite a few of his poems, but this one did not leave me with a warm happy feeling. It left me with a feeling of dread, as though the gentleman who lived in the village may have been not quite all that he seemed to the village folk. The first time I read it, I got a chill from the reflected snow that wrapped my thoughts. I felt that it was not promises that kept the young man from entering the snowy woods, but fear. Was Washington Irving's Headless Horseman perhaps lurking deep within the cold shadows? Was the young man afraid that some nameless monster could be hiding behind the false prettiness of the wood? Had he just finished reading Mary Shelley's Gothic horror, "Frankenstein"?

I regret to tell you that this very poem gave me a fear of the dark. I would hurry to my bed and pull the covers over my head and sleep that way all night. My parents worried that I would deprive my brain of oxygen sleeping in this cocooned way and once even took all my blankets and the pillow from the room to try to break me of the habit. I thought them most cruel for this act...I don't think they acted out of cruelty but out of desperation. I still think back on that night and wonder how I managed to get through it without having a panic attack. Ever after that, I always lay awake until everyone else had gone to bed, then feeling safe at last, would haul the blankets over my head and sleep peacefully.

I outgrew the fear of the dark while in my room, but the fear of the darkling shadows outside still hold me in a cold grip. Our home is surrounded by woods and at times they lay deep in snowy shadows. I avoid them at night. Just after we first moved here, it was getting dark and I had taken Mindy, our blind dog, out for her last romp of the day. She and her cats had wandered down to the wood line and I stood under the security light (I didn't name it that, the power company did) and watched them. Suddenly I saw the cats stop and sniff the air, noses pointed up, then Mindy did the same thing. As one, the dog and the five cats turned and started to RUN towards the house. My mind froze momentarily and then when it came back to me, I saw all the monsters that could possibly inhabit the imagination lurking in the wood in front of me. I turned and ran like hell (in fact got up a pretty good speed for someone who walks with a cane) and the cats and the dog passed me. I refused to turn around and look behind me. My breath was coming in gasps as my feet made purchase on the porch steps and I ran straight into Mac's arms.

His face was perplexed and all I could do was start laughing. I was so glad to be the winner in this weird game of "ally ally oxenfree" that all I could do was grasp Mac's shirt front and laugh hysterically...I think I may have been crying, as well. What had the cats and the dog sensed in the woods? Coyotes probably...perfectly natural...no wraiths floated out to grab at my running feet, no monsters emerged from a dark lair. I'll never find out, either. I don't get far from the porch at night. Any Dog Walking is done by Mac. He's not afraid of anything.



Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

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.

71 comments:

Vee said...

Listen, do not visit ChocolateChic today and do not listen to her post for Sunday. Do not. Just sayin'.

There was an article in the paper last week about a snowmobiler falling through a lake. He was circled by coyotes all night. He's going to be okay. Just home from Iraq so he's tough stuff. He did break both legs. Poor guy!

Sandi, you have such a way with words that I wanted to run away from the woods and I know that the cats and you with your cane would've passed me. LOL!

Susan said...

I like the new look of your blog. And somehow the pinkness goes well with the poem you included. Funny how poems affect people, isn't it? And in different ways. I never saw it as scary until you explained it that way. I can see that now.

Tee aka The Diva's Thoughts said...

That reminds me of how afraid I was of the dark after I saw The Exorcist once.

Moannie said...

It is only the last lines that have remained with me as long as I can remember, and I love them for the picture they paint in my mind.

Lover of Life said...

It's that primal part of our brain that says RUN when it sees other animals running away. I say it is a really, really good part.

Great story!

JanaBanana said...

Yo may think me crazy for saying this, but I have witnessed the sounds of "Bigfoot" and let me tell you its scary!

Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

Indredible post, Sandi! You are a gifted writer!!

I published my 300th post, yesterday. If you get a minute, come on by the Back Porch and sign up for the giveaway.

Jeni said...

It is funny -strange funny -that I, as one who was terrified of the dark as a child and for a good while after outgrowing childhood too, come to think of it, that I always loved that particular poem and it never sparked any fears in me. But different strokes too, ya know. Now, animals running in what appears to be a fearful state -that would get my fat fanny moving as quickly as I could go too! Like you, it would be a difficult deal for me to run, but I'd sure be giving it the old college try all the same. Excellent post from you but then, that is far from unusual too.

Donna said...

OMWord!!!!Hahaa....Scary!!! Sasquach maybe????
Safe night sweetie!!hughugs

Veggie Mom said...

It's certainly a haunting verse, and I can see where you're coming from here. But I've never equated Robert Frost with Edgar Allen Poe...whose Tell Tale Heart really does leave me with a feeling of dread!

Cheffie-Mom said...

Awwww, good thing Mac was there to protect you. (:

lmerie said...

hehe - Love it! A few years back, when trying to go back to college (and work full time and be mommy and on and on - same story as most of us) I had to take a lit class. And we had to pick this poem apart. It was peaceful and quiet to me. I honestly did not pick up on the dark innuendos that you did or that I WAS suppose to! So having "got it wrong" in that class, it was fun to read your post and see I really DID miss it!! hehe

Smiles!

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

The last three lines seem familiar but I'm sure I have never read the poem before. It did give me a chill though and can easily see how it could have had that effect on you, especially as a child! A x

Maggie May said...

The verse is a bit ghostly. I expect the animals picked up the scent of another animal though.

I was never really scared of the dark & always had to share with my brother who was terrified of the dark when we were children. He always had to have the light on & I needed to sleep in blackness! Not too keen on the dark now though!

Akelamalu said...

Crikey the cats and dog must have been scared by something - it would have spooked me too! Animals see and hear things we can't. Our dog would be fast asleep one minute then up with his hackles raised staring at a particular spot on the wall - it used to scare the bejebus out of me! :0

Mary Isabella and Kiley too! said...

I am so glad that Mac was there wtih open arms to protect you from harm....m..

Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

Like another commenter I never thought to see that poem as anything but peaceful...hmm...and that's coming from an English major. I can't imagine you Sandi being afraid of the woods outside, unlike me, who would not walk down the lane at night thru the part that goes into the woods and out again...uh uh..no way..jose.. xo Lynn

Sally said...

I was here earlier, but blogger wouldn't let me talk!!!! :)

Your story reminds me of my oldest brother when we were kids; one night he yelled out for Mama to come into the room. He thought "somebody" was sittin' in a chair. She told him it was only folded laundry; he said "Well, IF somebody comes, tell em I don't live here." The other thing was once in Wash. state~visiting some friends who lived close to woods~he yelled out "I hear a white bear". Mama told that over and over again!

Have a wonderful day, Ms Sandi; I'm always glad when you post!

jinksy said...

'The darkest evening of the year' ... menacing! No wonder you were frightened out of your wits!

Country Cottage Chic said...

That poem has always been very evocative - I remember it from years ago. Another, more gentle night time poem is "Silver" by Walter de la Mare.
Isn't it funny how we have this irrational fear of the dark? Must be from our primordial days!

Edwin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eddie Bluelights said...

Hi Sandy, Nice to drop by again to read your new post. I enjoyed the prelude and fugue very much. First the prelude where you describe so well your possible close encounter of an undesirable kind and your escape, and later, the fugue - the lovely poem itself. You know, it must be a coincidence because when I was a little boy (can you imagine that?) I too was very frightened of the dark and what did I do? Pulled the bedclothes over my head and gasped for air - anything for security!
Thank you, also, for you very kind words concerning the late Mickey, my dear budgie friend (says he tongue in cheek). I will have to find something else to write about now won't I? Will drop by again soon, Eddie

SandyCarlson said...

That's an interesting take on the poem. I find it to be a very quiet piece. My daughter's illustrated version shows a smiling, but happy older dude. I always felt lonely reading this.

Merisi said...

Oh Sandi,
this is one of my favorite poems ever! I always imagined a person who once had had a friend who lived nearby, but only time to stop to stop shortly and reflect on the old friendship. I could literally see him pulling himself up and away and riding on through the falling snow.

I loved the snowy evenings of my childhood, looking out at the dark woods and never was afraid of anything. In my experience, when everything is covered in snow, evening and nights are never as dark as without. I remember walking through the snow to church for midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

Nessa said...

I always got tired from this poem - miles to go before I sleep. I'm exhausted.

Tara said...

If you followed the prickly feeling on your skin, good for you...the air may have been telling you something! Yeah, Mac, for being the home sweet home you needed!

♥ bfs~"Mimi" ♥ said...

I'm afraid I would have taken off running, too! Animals have that amazing sense, huh!?

In high school, that was one of the 100's we had to memorize. Thank you for the awesome, not, memory of sitting beside Miss Grant reciting all that poetry.

Helena said...

I don't remember when I first came across this poem, certainly only maybe 8 or 10 years ago, so I didn't know it when I was little. I love it, it has been my favourite since I first read it. I really love the 'promises to keep' bit. Can't explain it. It seems to have so many layers.

When I was a girl we lived next to some huge woodlands and we'd walk them through the summer holidays. Regretfully it is all gone- made way for the A2/M2 in the late 1970s. SOme of the woods were so old, in one part there was a clearing through them and ridges in the grouns where the wheels of coaches used to go. I still get upset when I think about how it was all bulldozed. Absolute vandalism on a grand scale.

Anyway. There was ONE part of the wood so dense you could only see the first two rows of trees. We never went in that part!!! We didn't mind cos there was so much else. Plus a part full of hedgerow and shrubs, where we would go blackberry picking and come home with buckets-full.

I was scared of the dark so badly that I couldn't walk the landing to the toilet and one night I was so desperate to pee I emptied an old rouns tin that I had used for pencils and peed in that. I forgot to get rid of it the next day and my mum found it and walloped me!

I think it was watching Dr Who from behind the sofa that made me scared of the dark, that, and the fact that I had a L-shaped room, and so I was always looking into a dark corner, no matter where I had the bed!

Nowadays I still have to have a night light left on. When we go away, if there isn't a night light, I prop open the door to the en-suit. HAHA!

But my fears nowadays are more to do with the Bi-Polar- if I dip too low or sail too high, I can hear things and 'sense' things that aren't there. There are times even now that I have trouble going to to loo in the middle of the night. But I don't need a pencil pot because now I have a Luvbug. If I can't get there on my own I wake him and say, "I need to go to the loo but I can't get there!" and he understands perfectly and escorts me semi-asleep.

:)

david mcmahon said...

My mother passed on her love of classical poetry to me. She would have enjoyed this post, Sandi.

skywind said...

Winter has been necessary to the past, the spring in front of us. :)
What is Really Healthy-Health Blog
Humor & Fun World-Funny Blog

Hairline Fracture said...

Actually, I seem to remember the poem could symbolize death--the author knows he has miles to go before that time, though. It's always seemed sad but peaceful to me.

Still, that story was scary! Any time animals run from something in the woods, I'd panic and run too.

Terri and Bob said...

I always thought that saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" was a crock of poo and now I know I am right.

Your post was so good! I got shivers reading it!

Dr.John said...

It is amazing what a child hears that we would never imagine is in the poem.
I had a big stuffed cat I hauled to bed with me and my dog slept on my feet. They protected me from the things that go bump in the night.

Hilary said...

Wonderful post, Sandi. I could feel the emotions you went through.. fear to laughter. Good thing Mac is fearless. ;)

Sweetie said...

What a wonderful post. It's amazing how darkness can bring out the child in us. Your writing is so descriptive that I can almost feel your fright.
Sweetie

ancient one said...

Loved this post. I could feel your fear. I used to run like lightning between my grandmothers lighted porch back to our dark house at night, always feeling as if "something" was about to grab me.

My second brother always slept with his head covered like that. He grew up to be a policeman and served our town as cheif before he retired. I asked him not so long ago if he still slept with the covers over his head. He said "Yes".

Woman in a Window said...

Oh, but when you're brave enough, there's so much more to night than the stuff of fear.

RBK's Realm said...

What a beautiful post! Once again, you have given an interesting angle to things.

This is a poem I grew up reading and loving because being a part of the British system of education in New Delhi, I developed a love of classic poetry and this poem has a haunting quality about it for sure.

But what you wrote about the dark is something many of us relate to - I am with you - I have no desire to be wandering near the woods in the dark much less in them.

® ♫ The Brit ♪ ® said...

Wonderful Sandi!
I love reading poetry and your post was so great too! Good to hear that even though you was so scared running from the woods you still managed to laugh like a banshee! X

Casdok said...

Really well written post full of emotions.

And thanks for dropping by. Im getting there!

Brenda said...

I am loving every minute here. Kaytlynn is so jealous of Keller now that he is old enough to want me. She had me so many years alone.
The great part is when I leave they will be leaving to move home! We are so excited to start working on their new home. Hope all is well with you an your family.

Lee said...

Sandi, I was scared of the dark too as a child. But it was the lights shining through the venetian blinds making weird traveling shadows on the walls as the cars turned the corner that caused my fears. I remember that eventually I became accustomed to them and was able to watch them make their full circuit and actually welcomed them as relief from the ever present darkness of my upstairs bedroom.

Lovely post! Congratulations on making David's list.

Love,
Lee

Daryl said...

Love that poem and I am sorry it is associated with scary images .. its really a lovely poem ... loved the post and your racing up the drive ...

Congrats on David's nomination as one of the POTD!

Shrinky said...

Ah, the curses of a fertile imagination! I used to freeze in my bed at night, imagining all those hands under the bed reaching up to grab me (probably induced from all those Frankenstein movies my da and I watched together). I clearly remember the day I decided to stop being afraid. I would be told to "go to bed", not being tucked in, I had to march the long dark stairs alone. I was seven this day, ma thought I'd gone mad. An hour before my appointed bedtime, I opened every cupboard, peeked under every bed, systematically searched the entire house, yelling "Boo!" into every dark place. It worked. My terror never returned after that day. (Smile)

cheshire wife said...

I am sure that in the same situation that I would have run a mile. I have not come across that poem before. It is rather spooky.

Merisi said...

Congratulations on Authorblog's David highlighting your blog once again on his Post of the Day Award!
:-)

Would you believe be had a big thunderstorm last night and three inches of snow?

Susan said...

Woo-hoo! Great blog and David-knows-best about great blogs!

Susan said...

And - it just occured to me that that poem should be the "Blog Poem". Read it again as if you were reading blogs late on a snowy night (been there!) and the 'owner' isn't aware of your presence in his/her life.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Congratulations on being mentioned in POTD! This is a terrific post, and certainly deserves his warm commendation!

The Muse said...

Great post...
Yes indeed!
Post of the day!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I think woods can be particularly scary at the best of times. Not my favourite places. And children see scary things in magnification more often than not.

CJ xx

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Sandi,

I followed the trail over from the Muse's blog, and I'm glad I did. I laughed so hard about your running from the boogie man because I think I have done similar things. ;-)

I have to admit, however, that I have always found great comfort from that poem. I grew up in the country and would stand staring at beautiful woods or fields on horseback, so I came away with a different interpretation. However, I was afraid of the dark and slept with a night light for years. I think it might have had something to do with having been a "Twilight Zone" junky. So in my alleged maturity, I've tuned out those types of signals. ;-)

But if my dogs and cats did what yours did on that snowy, dark evening, I would have been racing you to see who got to the house fastest! LOL!

XO,

Sheila :-)

joan said...

Great post Sandi! You haven''t been reading those vampire boks(Twilight) have you? Because they will make you scared of things like that.

justabeachkat said...

Good post Sandi! You had me leaning forward as I read to see what happened next. Running into Mac's arms was a great ending. I've had visions of "monsters" myself sometimes when I walk Miss Daisy at night. I think I read too many mysteries. LOL

Thanks for all of your visits while I was on my trip. We stayed so busy that my computer time was taken up with doing a post each day and downloading my photos. It sure feels good to be home and able to blog again.

Hugs!
Kat

CatHerder said...

I think im more afraid of the dark IN the house than outside...i always loved that poem!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Thank you so much for your kind comments and return visit. I am honored. Again, congrats on your mention by David in POTD!

Lew said...

Touching post! Snow falling gently at night is a quiet, haunting experience. This poem has been one of my favorites. I don't remember reading Frost until I was in high school. I always thought it expressed a desire to stop and observed the beauty when there a was long way still to go.

Mary Isabella and Kiley too! said...

Just wanted to drop by and say hello my friend...m.

Louise said...

This is a great story! I can't relate to it at all because a snowy woods at night would be bliss for me. And THAT is what makes me know it is a great story. Because I can't relate, but you still conveyed feelings that tell me I could be like that. Excellent writing! (And funny, too!)

Jules~ said...

hi there Sandi. This was a fun read. Thank you for showing us a bit more of yourself. You know what? I have always wrestled with darkness fears myself. Sometimes it is quite griping and I just know there is something right behind me in mid reach for my shoulder.

I did the "where should I live in Europe" and they said I belong in Dublin. That was fun.

Blessings to you today.

Anna said...

You are funny Sandi, lol, but you know I always and I still do fear darkness, I get goose bumps all the time, even if it is just a little squeek in the floor. Thanks for sharing your story, oh boy that must have been one crazy race from the woods. Glad there was a happy ending...:). Anna :)

Mockingbird Hill said...

Great story...but makes me think even more about the mysteries of the dark. I don't like the dark but don't really fear it. Odd...

Anyway...good write and good read...as always!

Cassie

Jamie Dawn said...

I think most people have a fear of the dark. Maybe not a terrible fear, but who wouldn't tense up when walking near some dark woods and their animals sense danger and run? I'd run too, and I'm as slow as a turtle. I'd hightail my bohunkus outta there!!
Who know what's lurking in the night shadows???
Yikes!
Now, you've got me freaking out.

:-)

Sujatha said...

Sandi, I LOVE that poem and it speaks to me of the beauty of life and nature. But that's the mystery of all literature - that we all read it so differently. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this - it was awesome! Very vivid.

Thank you for the lovely comment over at my blog.

Jeanne said...

That is a beautiful poem isn't it? I can just imagine a wee little Sandi being frightened by those words. I know what you mean about the furbabies. When we lived in Leeds Matt was working third shift so it was just Noelle and I home at night. I'd be settling into bed for the evening and she'd go to the top of the stairs and be staring down into the darkness on alert. Used to scare the bejezus out of me.

DogLover said...

What a lot of comments, Sandi! You must have armies of readers.

I think my education failed me and I didn't hear any of that poem till I saw the (original) Manchurian Candidate film!

But I didn't put the dark interpretation on it that you discovered.

Veggie Mom said...

BTW, Sandi: I thought of you when I posted this morning. Yesterday, too!

Ladybird World Mother said...

Sometimes when I am out in the dark I too get the 'terrors' and have to run for the house... glad you did too!

San said...

Although I always found Frost's poem a comforting read, I have experienced fear of the dark once in a while. We live in a rural subdivision with no streetlights and very few exterior house lights. Once the rest of the family was out of town and I walked to the mailbox in the dark. I had that same sensation you described--what's out there?????? I got the mail and practically ran back in the house. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often.

i beati said...

i love this poem so much because where i lived the snow always formed a sort of cave to walk through. I thought it magical.

Breeze said...

What a different take on that poem...I trusted that it was a regret that he couldn't stop longer but now I see...it could be different.

Hope you are feeling better. Lee sent me over here and said I would like your writing and indeed I do.

Breeze
www.breezedaze.blogspot.com