Friday, January 31, 2014

MORE NOTES ON WINTER

Backyard at dusk, Sewanee
Slowly, ever so slowly, the quiet snow is melting on The Mountain, and its white luster subsides. Still, the air is sharp, and the sun struggles to appear, reminding me of its struggle to shine as it did when I lived in New England fifty years ago.

Today, we went to lunch at Crossroads Restaurant with our good friend, Kathy Hamman, editor and co-publisher of Plateau Press in Sewanee, Tennessee and shivered in the huge barnlike place that was once the site of Sewanee Cleaners, huddling close to a woodstove and warming ourselves on lentil soup and Chinese Oolong tea—delicious wintry pleasures.

When I reached home following lunch, I had an impulse to listen to "Songs From Liquid Days" by Phillip Glass, an album that Glass put together with lyricists Paul Simon, Suzanne Vega, David Byrne, and Laurie Anderson. I was drawn to listen to a piece called "Freezing" with vocals by Suzanne Vega and Linda Ronstadt, which ends with the words: "And now I'm freezing/Freezing." The lyrics seemed compatible with the below freezing weather outside my window.

I had been reading E. B. White's account of a trip to China Lake when he, his wife, and young son were stranded in a village in New England during a snowstorm sans nightclothes. White had chosen to sleep in sweater and socks, his wife in a coonskin coat, and his son in a suit of "heavies" with a sweater on his legs. White wrote that his wife arose in the night and told him that it was impossible to sleep in a coonskin coat. I laughed aloud, as I had awakened, perspiring, in pajamas and a long-sleeve fuzzy bed jacket last night, while the temperatures dipped to eight degrees outdoors.

This morning, there were animal tracks on the snow-covered drive and in the snow piled on our front porch, and I wondered what freezing critters had come to visit, looking for warmth and finding inhospitable hostesses. We've sealed off the crawl space under the cottage that skunks inhabited last winter; boarded up the entries to the attic where chipmunks once snuggled down for the season; the deer have been culled, and, in general, our wildlife population has diminished for the duration.

Life's problems seem minimal when we look out and see icicles hanging from the roof. Our thoughts are reduced to the major problem of keeping warm, and we dream of warmer climes like the Caribbean tropics, of being at peace with winter storms.

Monday we'll return to "tropical" Louisiana that has also been assailed by Arctic storms—a place where temps are usually sultry, but where my son-in-law jackknifed his van on icy Darby Lane yesterday morning. Schools in New Iberia have been closed, and State offices have been shut down for three days. We hope for forty and fifty degree weather and for the balm of sunny days upon our return.

With the country swathed in cold and ice, I reflect on Robert Frost's poem "Fire and Ice:"

"Some say the world will end in fire.
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if I had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction, ice
Is also great
And would suffice."


Wherever you are, stay warm and well. As another poet said, "If winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"
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