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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – The Cross of Snow (Repost - April 5, 2011)

Happy Easter!

In 1873, a group of explorers led by Clarence King found and photographed a legendary mountain in Colorado called the Mount of the Holy Cross. Prior to their documentation of the mountain’s actual existence, an aura of mystery and myth had surrounded it. No one was sure of its actual location, and many maps of the time placed it at least 30 miles away from its true position. But the real cause of the mythology around the mountain was the cross of snow, formed by intersecting couloirs, that remained on its ridge even after the rest of the snow on the mountain had melted.

Americans were thrilled with King’s discovery of the Holy Cross, and were dazzled by William H. Jackson’s photograph (perhaps his most famous photo of all).

William Henry Jackson: Mount of the Holy Cross (1873) . Photo courtesy of Idaho State University

They were even more impressed when, three years later, Thomas Moran’s painting, ‘The Mount of the Holy Cross,’ was awarded a medal at the Centennial Exposition (1876).

Thomas Moran, Mountain of the Holy Cross, 1875, oil on canvas. Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Gene Autry. Museum of the American West, Autry National Center.

And it turns out that one day, in 1879, the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was looking through an illustrated book of western scenery. There he saw the Mount of the Holy Cross, and he subsequently wrote this poem, The Cross of Snow, about the death of his wife in a fire eighteen years earlier. The poem was only published after Longfellow’s death.

In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
A gentle face--the face of one long dead--
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died, and soul more white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books be read
The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Image courtesy of


The Morning of the Morning

by Mary Crow - Poet Laureate of Colorado (1996-2010)

Why let it matter so much?: the morning’s morningness,
early dark modulating into light
and the tall thin spruces jabbing their black outlines at dawn,
light touching the slope’s outcroppings of rock and yellow grass,
as I sit curled under blankets in the world
after the world Descartes shattered,
a monstrous fracture
like the creek’s water surging through broken ice.

Arapaho National Forest, Colorado. Credit: racoles

A silent wind bounces spruce branches
in that motion that sets molecules vibrating latitude by latitude
to crack the absolute
of feeling, of knowing what I know, of knowing who I am,
while down the road the town wakes to hammer and saw—
a sound that says to some, if you don’t grow you’re dead—
and then farther down the elk and deer gather
at a farmer’s fence for his handout of hay.

Elk and the Canyon. Credit: elizabethfoote

Late January: just outside Rocky Mountain National Park:
a high branch of ponderosa offers a rosette
of needles blackgreen and splayed as in a Japanese scroll painting,
which is beautiful if I focus there and not on the sprawl I’m part of
in this rented condo where I don’t want to live since I, too, need
more rooms to haul my coffee to, more bookshelves for books
I haven’t time to read—bird chatter!—I shouldn’t make one more resolution
I can’t keep to spend more time with friends.

Ponderosa Pines Dusted with Snow. Credit: peachygreen

But it’s morning and morning’s my time of day
as spring’s my season; more light, I say.
I do regret some things I’ve done and if I could,
I’d do things differently: start sooner, say, look deeper.
One flake of snow drifts down slantwise,
a lovely interruption to my tirade—
as each aspen is to the larger groves of taller firs—
and brings me back to what’s happening here.

Copyright © Mary Crow first published in Ploughshares, Emerson College, 2001

Old Main, CU Campus. Credit: Ellyn B.

Read more of Mary Crow's poetry at


Desert Survival

By Gina Putnam

(Note from My-West:  The following is a comment sent to us through Facebook in response to one of our posts about the desert. Ms. Putnam’s descriptions were so striking and poetic, we asked her if we could post them in our poetry section. She graciously agreed.)

I have lived in the desert for thirty years. I started out thinking it was dry, hot, desolate and a place God didn't forget ... He never even knew it was here, with good reason.

Credit: ©

It took me awhile to discover that even the most desolate of deserts is vibrant with life and strength. I have seen a quiet creek explode into a 500 year event flood rampaging past my home. I have heard boulders bouncing through the water and watched trees float like barges through the chaos with a calm serenity.

Credit: Gina Putnam

The desert changes its shape but never its form. 

Credit: ©

I've watched brush fires and timber fires thunder all around and envelope the desert in burning heat; Pinion pines exploding into towers of red flame leaving all the desert blackened and dead.  

Credit: Arbyreed

And then, a flash of color! A shout of hope! A prickly pear blossoms in neon defiance.

Credit: Fool-On-The-Hill

Credit: Gina Putnam

[Finally: video of a flash flood in Southern Utah by David Rankin – listen to the sound of the boulders crashing together.]


A Lake in Oregon

By Mitch Cohen

“Lingering Leaves” Credit: Courtesy of Connie Borup ©  


At evening an old angler

greets us in rolled sleeves

and gestures past the lake he comes up from:

yonder long folds of earth rising.

Snow deep down the sides clear through June,

he says, proud like he’d snowed it himself.

Now only peak shadows hold white

Bridgeheads for winter.

A still face, creased below white wisps.

“Mirrored Tranquility” Credit: Courtesy of Connie Borup ©


A slight purling wash

plays the bound of pebbled shore. 

Gnat clouds at pier’s end

as the cool sets in.

You, sprightly, here and there,

with your camera, seeing pictures;

I’m braiding these lines to hold us fast.

“Rocks and Ripples” Credit: Courtesy of Connie Borup ©

Film full, page full:

our crafts to fuse the hour through

to hours that come, prepared for here.

This served up to look on, then,

in albums, catching this waning light.

“Floating” Credit: Courtesy of Connie Borup ©


Baxter Black – Black in the Saddle

By Bennett Owen

Credit: Bam's Blog

“He was every burnt out cowboy that I’d seen a million times
With dead man penny eyes, like tarnished brass
That reflected accusations of his critics and his crimes
And drowned them in the bottom of a glass.”

- The Buckskin Mare, Baxter Black

Credit: The Selvedge Yard

The New York Times lauds him as ‘…probably the nation’s most successful living poet.’

Credit: NPR.Org

Baxter Black describes his success this way…“There will always be a need for someone who can think stuff up.”


His repertoire includes humor, song, poetry, homespun wisdom and a good portion of outright foolishness, tinged sometimes by a hint of melancholy. Black is a rare crossover talent (Pioneer Woman is another) whose multi-faceted talents play well in ranch houses across the west even while stirring hearts and tickling big city funny bones. So on any given day Uncle Jules might be reading his column in Western Horseman while my buddy Paul listens to his NPR bit in Yonkers. And all the while, Black maintains a fierce fealty to the cowboy mystique and an authenticity that is the very key to his popularity.

Credit: CBSVegas

Black deprecatingly refers to himself as a ‘large animal veterinarian’ but he is first and foremost an entertainer, on the road throughout the year (he appears in Evanston, Wyoming on May 14th) along with a newspaper column, bountiful CDs and five books including one called ‘Croutons on a Cow Pie.’ Here’s an Emmy Award winning profile that you won’t want to miss…especially the million dollar view from his outhouse down in Arizona border country.  His money quote…”Ya gotta like a place where the town seal is a cow, a locomotive and a box of dynamite.”

Wabi Sabi from Dan Sheffer on Vimeo.


Check out Black's website at: