Winter, My Mistress
By: Will Falk
The solstice came
but the winter did not.
So I asked my mistress
how she wanted to be loved.
She pulled me into a Colorado canyon
where her children, December's first snows,
huddled under shade and stones
to survive the unseasonable sunshine.
Hold me, she said, as close as snow
clings to shadow while the world burns.
She led me to a dried-up creek.
where, for millennia,
wet songs had once been sung.
Now, only silence flowed.
When wind dragged dust
and gravel across the creek bed,
we heard the creek
trying to clear her throat.
But, she was far too parched to sing.
Long for me, winter said,
like streams long for the music of water.
Use your tongue, she whispered,
to lick frost from the skin of the land.
Taste my ecstasy and paint my praises
on the howling north wind.
Resistance is my love language.
If you turn the heat down,
it will turn me on.
Kick the furnace.
Punch holes in pipes.
Fill the oil wells.
Always leave the tops on mountains.
And, when at last I come,
to give you chills and make you tremble,
don't be a fair-weather lover,
betraying me for warmth and comfort.
If you want me, you must choose:
Stand strong in the cold and
unsheathe your courage for me,
or bury your head in blankets and
unmask your impotency
for all the natural world to see.
Will Falk an author, activist, and attorney. The natural world speaks. And, his work is how he listens. His first book, How Dams Fall, a short work of creative nonfiction describing my relationship with the Colorado River, was published by Homebound Publications' Little Bound Books series in 2019. His work has been published by The Dark Mountain Project, Whole Terrain, Voices for Biodiversity, Flying Island Journal, and Earth Island Journal, among others.
"In January 2021, I co-founded a protest camp in the site of the proposed Thacker Pass open pit lithium mine. The Thacker Pass mine would destroy thousands of acres of beautiful old-growth sagebrush and critical habitat for species including the greater sage grouse, Lahontan cutthroat trout, pronghorn antelope, golden eagles, and many many more. Thacker Pass, known in the local Paiute dialect as Peehee mu'huh, is sacred to the region's First Nations, especially the Paiute and Shoshone peoples. Thacker Pass was also the site of a brutal September 12, 1865 massacre where federal soldiers massacred as many as 70 Paiute men, women, and children.
For most of 2021, I lived at the protest camp organizing resistance to the Thacker Pass mine, raising awareness of the harms the mine would cause, and representing the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and a group of traditional members of the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe calling themselves Atsa Koodakuh wyh Nuwu/People of Red Mountain in a federal lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management for permitting the mine.
I wrote "Winter, My Mistress" while wondering, during these times of ecological collapse, why so few people are willing to act in defense of the planet's last remaining wild beings and wild places. One answer is that more people don't actually love the natural world. So, the question becomes: How can we help people fall in love with the natural world? Our bodies and our sensuality might be one way. So, "Winter, My Mistress" is an attempt to help people relate to winter in a sensual way. If they can do that, perhaps they can fall in love with winter and find the courage needed to fight the forces destroying the planet."