Now is the winter of our discontent –
The opening line of Shakespeare’s Richard III’s soliloquy rattles ‘round my head once the glitter of the New Year has dimmed.
We’ve weathered some emotional and financial storms previous Januarys – both hubby and I lost our dear dads during this month, we’ve lost other friends and a favorite uncle, too. If the furnace, car, dishwasher or nearly anything mechanical goes kaput, it’s akin to Murphy’s Law that this will occur kick off our new year. Frankly, we’d like to tear this month off the calendar and start with February just to avoid the anniversaries.
We know we’re not alone in this January haze of loss, illness or frustration, the newspapers fill of obits and human misery.
We’ve seen a lot of weather stack up over our dear Sierra pass this season and have dealt some with the wind, rain, ice, snow, fog and inversion. But, knock on wood, for us, the January Jinx hasn’t hit this year, aside from this head cold that has had me lying low and a few lame car repairs. Curled in my bed, reading while tethered to tissues and tonics, the sequence of authors tending to me have been (in order) William Faulkner, Willa Cather, Sinclair Lewis and Leif Enger. The latter three have set the mood of winter thusly:
After a mile she saw that he was studying a dark cloud in the north. He urged the horses to the run. But she forgot his unusual haste in wonder at the tragic landscape. The pale snow, the prickles of old stubble, and the clumps of ragged brush faded into a gray obscurity. Under the hillocks were cold shadows. The willows about a farmhouse were agitated by the rising wind, and the patches of bare wood where the bark had peeled away were white as the flesh of a leper. The snowy slews were of a harsh flatness. The whole land was cruel, and a climbing cloud of slate–edged blackness dominated the sky… They were flying now, the carriage rocking on the hard ruts. The whole air suddenly crystallized into large damp flakes. The horses and the buffalo robe were covered with snow; her face was wet; the thin butt of the whip held a white ridge. The air became colder. The snowflakes were harder; they shot in level lines, clawing at her face. She could not see a hundred feet ahead.
You don’t give a chipped dime for December ’62, but it was an epic season, all the same, the drifts rising eventually past the kitchen windows and up to the very eaves. In the afternoons Swede and I, in layers of pants, would step from the highest snow bank onto the roof of the single-story addition, then climb to the peak and go skidding down the other side to land with a poof in the front yard.
Then Cather in her best-known novel My Antonia details the Nebraska prairie winter:
Winter comes down savagely over a little town on the prairie. The wind that sweeps in from the open country strips away all the leafy screens that hide one yard from another in summer, and the houses seem to draw closer together. The roofs, that looked so far away across the green tree-tops, now stare you in the face, and they are so much uglier than when their angles were softened by vines and shrubs. In the morning when I was fighting my way to school against the wind, I couldn’t see anything but the road in front of me; but in the late afternoon, when I was coming home, the town looked bleak and desolate to me. The pale cold light of the winter sunset did not beautify – it was like the light of truth itself. When the smoky clouds hung low in the west and the red sun went down behind them, leaving a pink flush on the snowy roofs and the blue drifts, then the wind sprang up afresh, with a kind of bitter song, as if it said, ‘This is reality whether you like it not. All those frivolities of summer, the light and the shadow, the living mask of green that trembled over everything, they were lies and this is what was underneath. This is the truth.’ It was as if we were being punished for loving the loveliness of summer.
Dear authors, knowing you’ve been there, felt fright, desolation mixed with joy and consolation comforts me. Your thoughtful descriptions of the highs and lows of winter helps me to remember and appreciate the coming of spring and New Life.