Kathryn Gwun-Yeen 君妍 Lennon
A Speck Among Giants
“We roost together / gather over steaming bowls, / slurping greasy broth, / brew mulled wine on stovetops, / steam up our windows with / anise, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and a twist of orange.”
Collages by Maia Grecco
As ice floes bloom
we fall back
and I hope
that tomorrow’s snowfall
will lighten the night.
It’s too far past midnight, I’m sitting at the window.
I watch a coyote flow
through the park,
silver and shadow against snow.
It’s another day, I’m sitting at the window.
I watch a magpie hop
blue black wings white belly between rusted leaves
picking at orange mountain ash berries
naked nest among branches sketched against sky.
These birds don’t migrate either.
We roost together
gather over steaming bowls,
slurping greasy broth,
brew mulled wine on stovetops,
steam up our windows with
anise, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and a twist of orange.
We cram into kitchens to make dumplings, invoking
the grandmothers’ recipes:
every way in the world of stuffing
salty and sweet into dough,
then boiling, baking, steaming, frying.
It’s sundog season - the air glittering
it cuts rainbows.
I turn my face into a woolen scarf and scuttle
over snow-dusted sidewalks.
I get out of the city’s
brown sugar roads
the sun low on the horizon, flanked by crescent moon, north star
black and white birch.
I am so small. The sky so big.
I ski in quietness, visit
beaver homes on frozen lakes.
Big horn sheep step onto the highway ahead,
guardians of this gray rock valley
turquoise water and craggy peaks.
That shiver I get, the reminder of being
just a speck
among ancient giants
when I journey west
to pay my respects
to the rock and ice that
birth our rivers.
Growing up in Alberta, things are big and contrasting here. The skies are big, the mountains are big, our seasons are big. These are the things that make me feel humble, and remind me that I’m just a small human in this wide, wonderful world—especially during winter.
With this poem, I wanted to capture the phases of winter, the idea that winter is not one monolithic season or experience, that each month evokes different feelings. From the initial beauty and awe at the onset of winter, to the sense that we are preparing for a long hibernation; the feelings of warmth and festivity during winter celebrations, the breathtaking beauty of its coldest days, and the quietness and majesty inspired by our natural surroundings.
...That shiver I get, the reminder of being / just a speck / among ancient giants...
Writing this poem at the onset of winter, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was its own unique challenge to conjure up feelings and memories of the season as a beautiful and fun time. I drew inspiration from walks around my Edmonton neighbourhood, from memories of experiences in winters past, and from the things I am longing for this winter, like gathering with friends and family and travelling to the mountains.
Winter is beautiful and magical in spite of being, and also because it can be dark and lonely. Through this work, I wanted to capture those contrasting feelings of winter - how even in the coldest bitterness of the deepest winter days, the season stops me in my tracks to marvel at its incredible beauty. In those moments, we bring the warmth to winter.
Kathryn Gwun-Yeen 君妍 Lennon is working on a bilingual book of poetry, thanks to support from the Edmonton Arts Council. She was a member of Edmonton’s 2012 Slam Poetry Team, and a member of the festival ensemble at the 2013 and 2015 Victoria Festival of Spoken Word. Her work has been published in Living Hyphen Magazine (forthcoming), Ricepaper Magazine, the Ethnic Aisle, Spacing Magazine, and screened at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival and Bozeman International Film Festival. She was born and raised in Edmonton/Amiskwacîwâskahikan, with mixed Hong-Kong Cantonese and Irish ancestry.
This work is part of The Art of Winter, a larger series in which artists are creating custom pieces representing their experience of winter warmth in Alberta.
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail’s Globe Content Studio on behalf of Travel Alberta. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.
CREDITS: Concept and editing by JESSICA ROBINSON; Art direction and design by JEANINE BRITO; Development by KYLE YOUNG and JEANINE BRITO; Project management by CHRISTINA LIPPA; Collages by MAIA GRECCO