As I have worked with many international students in my writing classroom, one of the complaints I often get is that they don’t have enough vocabulary to write meaningful sentences. It is certainly difficult to express complex thoughts with simple vocabulary; there is no doubt of that. Nonetheless, given care, beautiful images can be expressed even with the most simple of words.

Consider this poem by Douglas Florian from his book Winter Eyes, available at amazon.

Winter Eyes

by Douglas Florian 

Look at winter
With winter eyes
As smoke curls from rooftops
To clear cobalt skies.


Breathe in winter
Past winter nose:
The sweet scent of black birch
Where velvet moss grows.
Walk through winter
With winter feet
On crackling ice
Or sloshy wet sleet.

Look at winter
With winter eyes:
The rustling of oak leaves
As spring slowly nears.


Isn’t that just a wonderful phrase, winter eyes? It makes me wonder how I might see the world differently in the winter. So, I thought I’d find out when Mr. C and I took a winter vacation and ended up in the middle of the winter storm Helena.

After two days of blizzard white out conditions, I was able to stand on the mountain in Mammoth Lakes, California and take this picture, with my winter feet in waterproof snow boots, breathing in the icy air past my winter nose and squinting against the sunlight on the snow with my winter eyes. As I looked out toward the mountains, covered in heaps and heaps of snow, I was reminded that there is a season for everything, including resting and renewing.  Even when I am not accomplishing all I’d like to because of the winter weather or because of life’s obligations, the experience is not wasted. Instead, I’m like a garden in winter, slumbering under a layer of snow, dreaming of “happy hours to be” for the “the summer days of blue” when “all its dreamings will come true” (Montgomery).  

The English language provides a marvelous vehicle to express our thoughts and dreams. Perhaps neither you nor I have the linguistic wherewithal of Robert Frost as seen in the classic must read poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”  We can, however, be like Frost and “have promises to keep,” hopefully, some of which will be to improve our vocabulary and language usage in the new year!  If you aren’t familiar with this beautiful poem, you can read it here and you can listen to Frost himself read it here.

If you enjoyed these poems and would like to read others, check out this wonderful page here.