Winter Storm in May

A High Sierra snowstorm passes through,
Injecting winter into springtime May;
As frozen fluffs of ermine drift into
A world remade in black and white and gray.

The once-blue sky anneals into steel
And Donner Lake as like a pewter tray;
While snow-bound trees bough down and kneel
As Earth conjoins two seasons in one day.

At times the world’s ablaze in vibrant color
With rainbows leading us to pots of gold.
But when deep dolor turns life dull and duller,
The universe can seem both dark and cold.

More often, daily life is like the weather,
With sun and rain and rainbows mixed together.



Donner Lake

Wind on the water with westerlies blowing
High in the mountains where fall lingers on.
Gold dusted sunset sets granite peaks glowing;
Powderscape snow melts away with the dawn.

Wilderness whispers an echo-etched air mail
God-writ in clouds with a finger of light.
Last summer’s yesterdays fade into grayscale;
Winter’s tomorrows creep slow into sight.

There! Can you hear it? The echoes of history.
There! Can you see it? True beauty set free.
Destiny, tragedy, triumph and mystery;
Mirror of heaven’s sublime majesty.



James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and published six novels, one collection of short stories, and three collections of poetry including Mostly Sonnets, all with Dunecrest Press. His poems have been published nationally and internationally in The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) Review, California Quarterly, Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online, Better than Starbucks, Dwell Time, Light, Deronda Review, The Road Not Taken, Fevers of the Mind, Sparks of Calliope, Dancing Poetry, WestWard Quarterly, Society of Classical Poets, and The Chained Muse. He was honored with being chosen as the winner of the 2021 SCP International Poetry Competition.

NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets.

The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

CODEC Stories:

23 Responses

  1. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Both of your poems, James, are great ones with vivid descriptions and inspired words like “anneals.” I have visited there and can envision those environs so aptly portrayed. Smooth classical verses of rhyme and meter are entrancing.

  2. Paddy Raghunathan

    From expressions like “bough down,” “deep dolor,” to “echo-etched air mail,” every line appears to be “God-writ.”

    Many congratulations, James.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Fair question.

      The first poem specifies the month of May. The second specifies that it is set in the fall.

  3. Margaret Coats

    Lovely photo, James, and two lovelier poems. Sound effects are too many to describe, but just enough to show the master’s touch in conveying both picture and thought. “Pewter tray” is a superb image for the lake, and the sonnet couplet distills weather wisdom in a welcome reprise of rainbows. When the lake becomes a mirror in the second poem, your care with the dactyls and their variant edges (but pure dactylic lines 9 and 11) makes serious music of the meter. I enjoy echoes of history in the wilderness.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Margaret, Lol! I love the subtle gentleness in the phrase “variant edges.” By the way, that second poem was created in short bits while playing cards with my brother at his Donner Lake cabin two months ago. I liked the way it turned out and chose not to polish the “edges,” which is something I spent more time on with the first poem which was written in May of 2021 when I also took the picture. In regards to poetry, you have the most observant eye of anyone I know and your comments are like gold and diamonds to me. In any case, full rhyming dactylic lines are challenging as to fewer English words with a double weak/feminine ending. Which is probably why most dactylic poetry in English is written in blank verse. Grateful as always for your taking time to share your thoughts.

  4. Julian D. Woodruff

    Both marvelous, James. Your unaccented rhyme of “air mail” and “grayscale” is truly inspired
    That’s a terrific photo, too. Both it and your gray skies and pewter lake surface show one side of the natural magnificence of the Donner-Echo-Tahoe region (which in turn explains the stunning quality of many of Adams’s photos).

    • James A. Tweedie

      Thanks for the comment, Julian. You seem to be familiar with the area. My grandfather laid out the water system in what is now Stateline at South Lake Tahoe in 1913 and then built one of the first log cabins in what was then a new development alongside the state line. The area has been special to my family ever since. I’m glad my poems spoke to your own experience.

  5. Paul A. Freeman

    Fave line: Gold dusted sunset sets granite peaks glowing.

    Some fabulous imagery and poetic-licensing that needs revisiting.
    I enjoyed both poems, and wow, what a picture.

    Thanks for the reads.

  6. Shamik Banerjee

    Great concepts, Mr. Tweedie. I am especially amazed by the rich imagery presented in your second poem.

    I’d love to know your own understanding of these lines:

    ‘Wilderness whispers an echo-etched air mail
    God-writ in clouds with a finger of light.’

    Thank you for your wonderful poetry!

    • James A. Tweedie

      Shamik, You ask for my understanding of these words:

      ‘Wilderness whispers an echo-etched air mail
      God-writ in clouds with a finger of light.’

      The thoughts are many. Here are two:

      In the high mountain wilderness, one experiences a profound silence, but the silence contains the whispered hint of breeze brushing through lodgepole pine or juniper branches and the granite slopes of the surround mountains echo back those whispers which leave the impression that even in the seeming emptiness of the vast and glacial-bare wilderness, everything–even the rocks–are in some sense alive, and stirring.

      Also, as a Christian I am familiar with the biblical Psalm 91 which begins with these words:

      The heavens declare the glory of God;
      the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

      In my poem I imagined God speaking to us in this way as if writing a letter to us with sunlight as God’s ink and the clouds as God’s paper: i.e. “air” mail!
      hat, I think, is the best I can do at the moment.

      • Shamik Banerjee

        Thank you so much for wonderful this insight, Mr. Tweedie. I re-read that stanza after going through your explanation and understood the imagery instantly. The portrayal of sunlight as God’s ink and clouds as His paper is very witty. I love this poem.

  7. Cynthia Erlandson

    I, too, think these are beautiful poems. And the same phrases mentioned above by Paddy, Margaret, Julian, Paul, and Shamik, lit up my imagination, as well.

  8. C.B. Anderson

    A couple of questions, James: Is the water too cold to swim in in June? And are flannel shirts appropriate on summer nights? Both are lovely, and you are not satisfied with mere images — your language is as graphic as the accompanying photo.

    • James A. Tweedie

      C.B. Surface water and shallow water absorb heat from the sun during the summer and can be quite enjoyable and refreshing around the edges of both Donner Lake and Lake Tahoe. But, dive off a pier into deep water and you will feel the chill go deep enough to be glad when you rise to the surface! Most summer evenings and nights are quite mild and while flannel is sometimes a good choice I find a light jacket is more than enough cover even with a sharp zephyr crossing the lake at sunset. As a child I often swam in Lake Tahoe with my family at sunset since both the air and the water were still holding warmth from the afternoon. Fishing in Tahoe or Donner over deep water at sunrise can be chilly, of course, even in the summer.

  9. Hari Hyde

    My favorite lines:

    As frozen fluffs of ermine drift into
    A world remade in black and white and gray.

    Brilliant! I felt the force and flurry of the ermine suffuse the landscape.

  10. Alec Ream

    I lived in Reno, Nevada for 5 years, writing. These lines take me right back to those days. When the Son of God’s sun declines beneath the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the temperature drops 40-50 degrees. No need for AC.

    The French Basque families that live in the N. Nevada / Tahoe / N. Cal area still have family-style restaurants that serve homemade red wine, humble top sirloin with roasted garlic, thin red broth vegetable soup, and iceberg lettuce with oil and vinegar and parsley. Also the fried potato!

    All that because of your poems! Thanks Brother.

  11. Alec Ream

    PS – visit the JT Basque French Basque Restaurant in Gardnerville, Nevada, owned and operated by JB and Marie Lekumberry; brother and sister. Just a drive down the mountain from Lake Tahoe. That food is some of the best.

    • James A. Tweedie

      I remember eating at those family-style Basque restaurants as far back as the late 1950’s/early 1960’s (we would drive to Gardnervill from Stateline/South Tahoe over Kingsbury Grade which was a 1 1/2-lane/narrow 2-lane gravel road back then). One of the two restaurants was called the Overland if I recall correctly. The food was placed in big tureens and platters in the center of a long table with a red-checked tablecloth and the diners served themselves and each other. I understand that individual meals are served to diners these days. Thank you, Alec, for filling my own mind with happy, savory memories.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.