January brings colder temperatures and the micro-seasons of Minor Cold (Jan. 06- Jan. 20) and Major Cold (Jan 20-Feb 03). It is also the time when wind chill is frequently mentioned in the weather forecasts.
The wind chill factor is the rate of heat loss from the skin as a result of the wind and cold. For those math minded people the formula for this is:
- Wind chill (ºF) = 35.74 + 0.6215T – 35.75(V^0.16) + 0.4275T(V^0.16)
- Where: T = Air Temperature (F)
- V = Wind Speed (mph)
- ^ = raised to a power (exponential)
For those of us who might not be so math oriented, like myself, the reality of this formula is that as the wind increases, the wind draws away heat from the exposed skin. This can then result in lower internal body temperatures.(1) The higher rate of wind chill, the greater the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. The National Weather Service provides us with this explanation.
“If the temperature is 0°F and the wind is blowing at 15 mph, the wind chill is -19°F. At this wind chill temperature, exposed skin can freeze in 30 minutes”(1)
As you can imagine, frozen skin is a pretty serious health condition. Frostbite, which is the common term for the freezing of the skin and underlying tissues, and can cause damage to the skin, muscle, and bones.(2) In cases of severe frostbite, the skin can die and needs to be removed.
Given the dramatic impact that January can have on our lives, either through wind chill or just a drop in temperature, it is no surprise that there are poems written about this time of year.
The first poem we have about this time of year is “January” by Helen Hunt Jackson
“January” by Helen Hunt Jackson
O Winter! frozen pulse and heart of fire, What loss is theirs who from thy kingdom turn Dismayed, and think thy snow a sculptured urn Of death! Far sooner in midsummer tire The streams than under ice. June could not hire Her roses to forego the strength they learn In sleeping on thy breast. No fires can burn The bridges thou dost lay where men desire In vain to build. O Heart, when Love’s sun goes To northward, and the sounds of singing cease, Keep warm by inner fires, and rest in peace. Sleep on content, as sleeps the patient rose. Walk boldly on the white untrodden snows, The winter is the winter’s own release.
As I read this poem, I am really struck by the first couple of lines. The “frozen pulse and heart of fire” and the “snow a sculptured urn”. These lines conjure up thoughts of a battle of life and death being waged on the landscape.
I also enjoyed those last two lines: “Walk boldly on the white untrodden snows, The winter is the winter’s own release.” When reading these lines, I think of all the time that I spend outdoors in the wind and the snow. It is a magical experience and there is a sense of boldness that must accompany any winter adventure.
The next poem by William Carlos Williams is also titled “January”. This poem also talks about the winds, but perhaps in a somewhat playful manner.
“January” by William Carlos Williams
Again I reply to the triple winds running chromatic fifths of derision outside my window: Play louder. You will not succeed. I am bound more to my sentences the more you batter at me to follow you. And the wind, as before, fingers perfectly its derisive music.
What I enjoy about this poem is the relationship between Williams and the wind. It is almost like the wind is teasing him, or perhaps luring him, but he will not falter from his writing. Such a steadfast dedication to his craft!
Haiku about winter wind
Matsuo Bashō, Kobayashi Issa , and Masaoka Shiki also wrote poems about winter winds. Below are a few examples of their work.
Winter solitude — In a world of one color the sound of wind. -Basho
Bleak is the Winter White is the Color And the Sound of Wind -Basho
winter wind-- he can't find his roost the evening crow -Issa
winter wind-- yet the inlet's birds get along well -Issa
winter wind from off the mountain... night howling -Issa
cold winter blast a cord of a sedge hat cut into my neck -Shiki
My favorite haiku out of this group is Basho’s “Bleak is the winter.” These three lines seem to capture my winter experience. Sometimes things seem bleak, they are usually white and covered with snow, and the wind is always there.
- National Weather Service; Wind Chill Questions
- Mayo Clinic; Frostbite
- Helen Hunt Jackson; “January”
- William Carlos Williams; “January”. This poem can also be found in Williams’ 1921 book Sour Grapes.
Looking for more haiku from Issa? Visit David G. Lanoue’s website The Haiku of Kobayashi Issa
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