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SHRM Newsletter: Lovely, Dark and Deep
Posted on Dec. 23, 2014

This is Utah SHRM Legal-mail no. 2014-24 prepared for Salt Lake SHRM, the Human Resources Association of Central Utah (HRACU), the Northern Utah Human Resources Association (NUHRA), the Color Country Human Resources Association (CCHRA), the Bridgerland Society for Human Resource Management and Utah at-large members of the national Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).



Please forgive and excuse (and hopefully enjoy) a short pause, at this special time of the year, from our usual legal updates…

LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP: In 1922, the legendary New England poet Robert Frost sat down at his desk in rural Shaftsbury, Vermont and penned the one hundred and nine words that we know today by the title “Stopping By Woods on A Snowy Evening.”

I first read the poem in the Winter of 1971 when my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Rigby, gave me a collection of Frost’s compositions as a prize in a poetry contest. This poem was in that book. I immediately feel in love with it.

I am not sure why. Perhaps it was the simple and beautiful rhyming scheme? Perhaps the pure and elegant iambic poetic structure? Perhaps my family roots in Vermont played a role? Whatever the reason, it has been a lifelong love affair. Forty years later, my own children gave me a prized illustrated version of the sixteen-line masterpiece.

The poem recounts what appears to be a rather mundane moment in the life of a seemingly ordinary person who encounters a snowstorm while busy on a burdensome errand. The plot is skeletal…man works hard, man confronts the snow, man looks at it, horse reminds man that it is cold and he is busy, man moves on.

Actually, the poem is much more profound than mundane. It really is extra-ordinary, and ironically, its very minimal plot conveys maximum meaning.

Life keeps us all very busy. We have errands to run and promises to keep. We are bound to perform various obligations for families, friends, business partners, clients and many others. We have to work hard, to go many miles- real or metaphorical- to keep our promises. And then we are hit with a moment that…

…stops us in our tracks.

It could be a terrific act of nature like a snowstorm. But it could also be a special event or an act of kindness or the death or sickness of a loved one. Suddenly, we must listen to what turns out to be an incredibly loud silence, a sweep of easy wind and downy flake, that the moment presents. We pause and we try to make sense of it.

Quickly, life’s harnesses shake bells that rebind and remind us that we need to move on from the moment and keep our promises. As we do so, we understand we have had a glimpse into something lovely with experience, dark with exciting mystery and deep with loving relationships. We have had a moment to search for and find some bit of true meaning in our lives. We are changed forever.

The next week will overflow with such moments. They will stop us in our tracks and urge us to look at them. The holidays wash over us with stories, memories, songs, events, decorations and gatherings that speak of big things: of lasting love and great joy; of holiness and eternal salvation; of peace on earth good will to all; and of the possibility that we finally will equally regard and respect each other (as Dickens puts it) as “fellow passengers to the grave.” What will we do with those moments?

Although we have not had much snow in Salt Lake City in 2014, we likely will get some on Christmas Day. When it happens, step out into it and think of Frost’s poem (see below). Stop and watch. Listen to the soft and silent flutter of the downy flakes and see if you can glimpse eternity in them. As you do, I pray and hope and wish that you will understand, either again or for the first time, that your life, in its own unique way, is lovely, dark and deep.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost


Whose woods these are I think I know.   

His house is in the village though;   

He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.


My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.   


He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.   

The only other sound’s the sweep   

Of easy wind and downy flake.   


The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

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mikeAttorney Michael
Patrick O'Brien

Mike O’Brien is an experienced and accomplished employment attorney, media lawyer and courtroom litigator.  He is active in SHRM and has received the highest possible reviews from rating services like Martindale - Hubbell (AV rating), Chambers USA, Utah Business Legal Elite, Best Lawyers in America, Who’s Who Legal USA, and SuperLawyers.  HR Executive Online has named him as one of America’s most powerful 100 employment lawyers, but keep in mind, this does not mean he is good at moving heavy furniture.

Awards and Recognition


OBrien Best

Chambers 2011 Attorney

Super Lawyers
Michael Patrick O'Brien

Best Lawyers In America, “Salt Lake City Best Lawyers Employment Law Lawyer Of The Year,” 2011-2012

Best Lawyers In America, First Amendment Law, Labor And Employment Law, 2005-2012

Chambers USA, Labor & Employment, 2003-2011

Employment Lawyer Of The Year, Utah State Bar, 2001

Human Resources Executive, Nation’s Most Powerful Employment Lawyers In America, 2010

Mountain States Super Lawyers, 2007-2012

Utah Business Magazine, Legal Elite, Labor And Employment, 2006-2012