Every now and then I come across a new word - one that I don't know ... or know the meaning of. Usually my curiosity will eventually get the better of me and I'll go to the dictionary to look it up. A recent discovery was the word "rime." No, it has nothing to do
with writing or rhyming. It simply means "frozen water vapor." Just a short, nifty word for frost. Perhaps one we could use in late fall when – freezing becomes more and more common – and frost grows thicker on everything outdoors. Until, at last, winter takes command and we find "rime" even on the inside of our window panes.
After going to the trouble of finding out the meaning of this cute little word - and adding it to my meager vocabulary - can I find a use for it? I already have quite a few autumn poems ... about brightly-colored leaves and dark gray skies and the sad, haunting cry of those spear-shaped formations of wild geese heading south and leaving us here behind to cope with an angry, cruel winter. Autumn is a beautiful, wonderful season. The only thing I don't like about it is the fact that it leads directly into winter.
I've never cared much for that season, and still don't look forward to the cold, to the snow-clogged and icy roads, driveways and sidewalks, to appointments that must be canceled and plans that must be postponed, and to the fuel bills. But when it finally "winters in ," I usually find that It's not really so bad after all. Then we are never at a loss for conversation material: “How deep is the snow in your yard? My thermometer said 20 below. What do you suppose the wind chill factor is today?”
And then there is always the anticipation of Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and Easter. Before we know it we will be counting down the days until spring is here. As with almost everything else, winter is about as good or as bad as we expect it to be.
Rural youngsters of my generation lacked organized entertainment activity, but we managed quite well on our own. Some of the kids in our neighborhood had ice skates and skis. Almost every family had at least one "store-bought" sled. And most farm boys could build a "single bob" sled from scrap material. Barrel stave skis were only partially successful. I often wonder how many "blue thumbnails" have resulted from trying to fasten a leather strap to the unyielding wood of a barrel stave with a hammer and roofing nails.
Flying down a steep hill, with the metal runners of a Flexible Flyer sled roaring over
ice-covered snow was a big thrill in our young lives. After supper and evening chores, we sometimes took our sleds back out to our favorite hill. A kerosene chore lantern worked well to mark the end of our trail at the ,bottom of the hill. Curves and other hazards were
often marked by torches made from tin cans, using old rags and waste oil for fuel. The light of a large, bright moon had a way of turning our familiar pasture hill into a strange new, wonderful world, or planet. Nighttime sledding parties were "just about as good as it gets."
And now to see if we can get some use out of our new word "rime."
New dainty lace of autumn rime
Foretells approach of wintertime,
When soft, white snowflakes' restless shift
Creates an ever-growing drift.
Ice crystals on the pond join hands
To build a stratum that withstands
Not only the large grownups' weights,
But pressure of their sharpened skates.
The young folks laugh and shout with glee
And race outdoors with sled and ski.
No alpine mountain do they need;
The pasture hill gives breakneck speed.
When chore-time interrupts their fun,
They plan a later, evening run,
Hoping the night's full moon won't fail
To light the rugged upper trail.
Their old, coal oil chore lantern will
Target the bottom of the hill.
They speed through shadowed, eerie land,
Then climb the steep hill, hand-in-hand.
The icy air, at last, takes hold;
Their toes and fingers ache from cold.
They'll seek, after one final ride,
Hot chocolate and the warm fireside.
Then, off to bed, and peaceful sleep
With dreams of hills, where snow's piled deep.
Winter's gray skies, the cold and snow
Bring joy to those who'll have it so.