Winter: Notes and Numina from the Maine Woods
By Dana Wilde, North Country Press 2021
Review by Dave Morrison
While on a morning walk one early December, author Dana Wilde grew disoriented, unmoored in the season and the day. The low-slung sun and long shadows played tricks with his perception—day or dusk?
He writes: “Why this should be disturbing, I didn’t know. But it was kind of haunting and bewildering, the initial lostness you daydream might come when you’re finally on the threshold of expiring. Or across it.”
Like someone whistling past the graveyard, he regained his balance with a recitation of scientific explanation, the mechanics that control seasons and light, an orderly and comfortable system that holds mystery and apprehension at bay. In so doing he shares with the reader some basic information (the angle of the earth’s axis, the time it takes to circle the sun, and why the sun appears in different parts of the sky in different seasons) and not-so-basic information (Jesus may have been a Pisces).
Wilde as both natural scientist and poet—the encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world, the fluid and elegant use of language…
Ultimately, and throughout the book, rather than setting up Sensual versus Science as opposites, he holds them both in a sort of yin and yang of understanding that make his observations so compelling, cinematic, and enjoyable.
Wilde showers us with data and history, factoids and explanations, but simultaneously bathes us in “…the feeling that connects you to the phenomenon: the gigantic awe, mystery and strangeness…”
Winter (North Country Press 2021) is a collection of essays about winter in Maine, and a companion to Summer to Fall (North Country Press 2016). Both are subtitled Notes and Numina from the Maine Woods, and as often is the case in these essays, “numina” is the perfect word choice: the spirit or divine power of a place.
The 52 essays are arranged by month: for example, November’s Gray Dissolution, The December Sun, Winter Midnight (January), A Mind of Snow and Ice (February), and yes, A Winter From Which I Am Trying To Awake (March).
I would not be the first to describe Wilde as both natural scientist and poet—the encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world, the fluid and elegant use of language certainly support that.
More importantly, the author has a quality that serves both endeavors—he pays close attention, and invites us to do the same. Every stroll is an exploration, an adventure where flora, fauna and season play a commanding roll.
Wilde addresses the change of seasons, and of climate. There is humor, heartache, and above all, a connection to the timeless natural world that grounds readers and puts them in a place one can see and feel. In a season that can seem desolate and harsh, Wilde illuminates unique and profound beauty, and life.
Whether it’s the Maine winter of Wilde’s childhood, or the current one, his poetic advice holds true: “turn, turn, turn, change or fade, adjust or die: adjust.”
Dave Morrison’s latest collection of poems is A Murder of Crows Descended, Displacing an Exultation of Larks (Soul Finger Press 2021).