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Winter is here

Winter is here

An illustrated ode by Nikki McClure

Initially performed at Forterra’s Ampersand LIVE at Town Hall in Seattle.


Nikki McClure, Winter is Here - Fire, Ampersand Magazine
Art by Nikki McClure

Persephone ate 6 pomegranate seeds.

Here, there will be no snowmen. No sleigh rides. No bells jingling. Here we have snowberries to glow in this gloaming.

Winter is Dark. Wet. Dark. Wet.

This darkness matters. This wetness matters. It draws us in, pulls us into warm places. Coffee shops. Home. There is a nightly making and dreaming and scheming of impossibilities. We work into the night. The New York Times is read 3 months late, then crumpled up and burnt. No one needs a jeweled butterfly watch. No one. We do need butterflies. How many did I see this summer?


Art by Nikki McClure
Art by Nikki McClure

In winter my work begins. I rake up remnants of summer, these leaves that are beyond big. Hands of giants made by capturing every particle of light and transforming it into solid gold, which I hoard. My investment strategy is to rake a pile big enough to be a 20-unit apartment tower overlooking the Salish Sea. You can move in next week. Here I will burrow down. The warmth of my work will match the warmth of the leaves. We will decompose together. We will recompose. Rewrite and rewrite our story all winter long. This is my work. I will hide beneath these leaves all winter long.


Nikki McClure, Winter is Here, Ampersand Magazine
Art by Nikki McClure

Winter is the dark. It is the work. It is the gathering.

Buffleheads returned October 31 to Budd Inlet, Olympia. I have been watching and hoping since the leaves fell and the raking began, I worried that maybe there would be no Bufflehead’s this year.

But there they are now. Bright white heads, made brighter against the grey day.

Thirty winters ago there were 1000s of Western Grebes whistling and diving and feeding in huge rafts. Two years ago I saw 1 grebe. Last year I saw NONE. Zero. This year on September 27th I saw 6.

Is this HOPE? 6 is not 3000. 6 is not 500. 6 is not 100. But it is 6. And these 6 Western Grebes are beautiful and I will make a picture of them, those red eyes slipping under the water. But is this Hope?

How can we note this dwindling, if we are not sitting on the beach waiting and hoping? We are driving in cars with windows too fogged up to see and it is dark and we want to go home. How will we know there are no Buffleheads if we don’t even know what a Bufflehead is? If we don’t know that they always arrive in late October after a summer spent in the North on a lake, raising babies in a hole make by a Flicker. How will we know if we don’t stop to notice what is here now?


Nikki McClure Winter is Here - Thrill, Ampersand Magazine
Art by Nikki McClure

This Song Sparrow stopped me on a foggy morning walk. I stayed for the concert. Or was it something else? Communication of Joy? Sorrow? Thrill? Hope?

There were butterflies. But there were less.

The Winter birds have returned. But there are less. My song will be of the 6. The hope of the 6. My song will be of waiting on the beach.

My song will welcome Buffleheads. My song will be raking leaves, decomposing, and burning the news for warmth. That is how I will make my winter HERE. In Hope and in Making.

What is winter hope in California?

What is hope in Pennsylvania?

In Louisiana?

How will you spend this winter HERE?

Will you walk the beach? Will you know the tides? Will you see a Western Grebe or Bufflehead? Will you gather by a fire? Will you dream and conspire impossibilities into ACTION?

Winter is Here.

Make it warm with your work.