Sharpening the New Year's Resolution: 10x

September 21, 2017
Magnifying glass hgw

I was given a magnifying glass for Christmas. It’s a fine brass one, with all sorts of knobs and moveable parts. It’s like having a brand-new eye.

Beneath it, a fingernail suddenly has texture. The wrinkles around one’s knuckles look like almost legible handwriting. An hour might not be too long to spend studying them. The tiny hairs on the back of the hand are turned into a dry forest, each bowed and bent the same direction, as though blasted by a prevailing wind. 

What else can we train the glass on? The fibers of knit sweaters: chaotic. A sharpened pencil-lead: quite dull. Rime on the window: beautiful. Nothing’s beneath consideration. 

There’s fresh snow on the ground this new year, not much, but enough, sharpening light on a bare branch or the leafy top of a still-green fern. What’s alive is mostly stowed beneath, or curled up on itself like rhododendron leaves, or hiding within layers, like dormant moths. Life has made itself small, and tight, and as warm as possible.

In winter, one has to use the eye the way the fox uses his nose, putting it right up close to things in order to get any scent off them.

I take my magnifying glass around, following tiny vole-tracks to tiny vole-lairs. If I shine it onto the disappearing place, I’m thinking, it will show a tiny WELCOME mat, and a tiny brass knocker. 

Here’s a poem for the new year. The imagination’s a kind of blind lens, too, a mole-nose prying into spaces its writer might not be able to, unaided. May yours, too, be sharpening its resolution this January.

Star-nosed Mole




The minuscule is what

the eye’s no good

at. It

can’t make itself



We have some tools


for blowing things up.


Rootlets for rafters

grubs for meals

the star-nosed mole


must turn whole versts

of his particular





compounded of





to a little bit

of architecture.



the carpenter ant

is little by little

dealing with

the unintelligible &

outlandish roominess

of a wet log.


Do not squint.

Do not

cudgel your brains

for examples.

The needles

you need to pass

through the impassable eye of

are lost in a haystack.


Let them come

all by themselves

sprouting out the scalp

as laughter


rifling off the top of one’s head

like the thought

of the kudu’s horns—


the sharpest

vanishing augers in

a multiverse

of light.

Kudu Antelope

About This Blog

Field Notes From the Woods, written by Henry Walters, shares observations and ruminations on plants, wildlife, weather, and other facets of nature. Henry Walters is a naturalist, a teacher, and a falconer. He lives and writes in a cabin in southern New Hampshire on a 1,700-acre tract of conservation land, of which he acts as steward. His poems, essays, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of print publications, including The Old Farmer’s Almanac.