Winter Milk

It’s become cold today, in a way that is not unusual in the upper Midwest in January. Throughout the daytime the temperature dropped a degree or so each hour until it’s now three below zero Fahrenheit.

I rode my bike out to breakfast this morning before it broke below zero, but it was still cold enough I had to wear a face mask, which reduces the pleasure of the ride for me. And now tonight, my hearty spouse just came back in from running a short errand, and told me “There’s no reason to go out the rest of this weekend. It’s just too cold.”

I think tonight is a good night for a poem by Carl Sandburg set to music. Carl was Midwesterner, and he knew winter. His Winter Milk is a lovely compressed recounting of his youngest daughter graduating to drinking from a cup. He calls her in the poem by her name, Helga, and as the poem ends with that seemly simple, but wonderful, phrase “dreams with your eyes” I became curious about what Helga in fact dreamed, and did with those dreams, once more that “only a little cup of winter” had touched her lips.

As best as I can figure out, she did plenty. Though she was born at the end of the First World War, she died this month in the winter of 2014 and she lived an active life well into this century. Here’s a link to a piece written a few years back that recounts her life briefly:

Helga Sandburg

So let’s think of Helga and life well spent, and think too of lives now only beginning. We have this human span of living, our redness against winter.

Musically, the setting I wrote for this poem is simple, and though it’s played by the LYL Band, there’s no drums or bass.  As usual, there should be a player gadget that will appear at the bottom of this post so that you can play and hear Winter Milk.



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