Focal Point Winter 2016

Winter Reflections

photo by Amanda Pitts
video by Jeremy Knickerbocker

As Michigan sees an end — we hope! — to another winter, two student authors offer their reflections of the season. Their poems are partnered with snowflake photos by Amanda Pitts.

214 miles away, another introduction

by Annabelle Miller

My sister gave birth in a Chicago fall—

I got the call in a Michigan winter:

The first time I learned a different cold.


42 hours of labor later, I’m in an introduction

to writing, then I’m not. I don’t remember

running out. Grey is falling

when I stop the ringing and the clouds


curve into a question, did she lose him again.

Nobody responds. I’m on the brink

of a river, ice clinging to the edge of cold,

please let this stick. Finally, I hear the worst


of it: they named him after Metallica.

I think of space and names, something called

home, whether it’s here or there, the way a mother

holds a child next to her pulse. Safety.

Next to me, there’s a blue bridge, tucked


under a quilt of frosted squares.

I brush my knuckles along the rails,

expecting the familiar burn of lake

chill, but the blankness has no weight.

Just softness.


Poetry Description: I'm from Chicago, so my first year at Grand Valley was the first time I experienced "Michigan snow." It was a weird experience, that life at home -— the birth of my nephew, especially — was all happening in almost a different time period. Life was completely different for them than it was for me, who was so far away and in such a completely new place that we didn't even experience the same seasons. At first, this made me homesick. I felt like I was stuck in time while everyone else moved on without me. Soon, though, being at school felt more and more like home, and I looked forward to Michigan winters as something unique to my new space and my own experience, independent from anyone else.

A Fight Song In Solidarity Against Lake-Effect Snow

by Daulton Selke


In winter at Grand Valley

you stand on grains of lakewater,

even mold them like sand,

and raise castles from gusts blowing by.


When snow smudges the other side,

when the halls of Great Lakes flicker

like snowflake shapes,

it's easy to stand at the Little Mac in awe--

It too is five miles long, blurred by the winter tide,


But we only have so much time.

Wisps of hot chocolate smoke

rose in the distance

like a fire, like a signal,

like the pitch of ceremonial melodies

pleading for some higher knowledge--

for some noise from the quiet white.


Those plumes swim between crystal flecks of sea

that splash your face like summer on the beach

and Cook Carillon plays songs

of time, standing still

with the sun peaking out like an ember


Poetry Description: The inspiration behind this peace lies in our complex relationship with West Michigan winters. I think we can all agree that they can be a huge trouble, but I've always thought there's a sort of majesty or wonder in the sheer magnitude of these experiences. The unity and perseverance we all demonstrate in navigating this particularly harsh season has always been an inspiration.

Student staring at snow on a table

About the photos

The snowflake images were produced on four different nights during a cold, snowy week in January. Pitts set up a snowflake studio in her garage: camera on a tripod, a 70-200mm lens gaff-taped together with a 50mm lens, and two stools topped with a sheet of glass. The sheet of glass was approximately 1 inch from the front of the lens. To create a background, Pitts placed a sheet of paper on the floor between the legs of the stool, covered half of the flash head with a blue gel and added a diffusion cap. The flash was aimed so the paper would appear blue, and the snowflake would also catch some of the light. When it snowed, she would take the sheet of glass from the garage, catch a few snowflakes, and return the glass to the stools for each photo.

Studio to capture snowflake photos

Page last modified January 27, 2017