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A few years ago, I made the choice to intentionally look for joy every day. I’d always leaned more towards optimism, but I noticed that my memories of pure joy were becoming few and far between. So, I made a choice to change that because I knew joy was all around me — it just […]
Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass–innocent, golden, calm as the dawn,
The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.
So many beautiful group-writing posts this month, on the topic of spring flowers. It’s my privilege to round out the total on the last day, and I’m doing so by writing about the humblest of spring flowers, one which is regarded by many as a noxious weed and garden-spoiler, but one which means the world to me.
The dandelion (taraxacum officinale) takes its common English name from the French phrase dent de lion, or “lion’s tooth.” That’s always struck me as odd because the petals don’t look like teeth to me at all. But I suppose a phrase which seems more appropriate to me, crinière de lion, or “lion’s mane,” isn’t as appealing–“crineerdelion” neither looks, nor sounds like something one would want in one’s garden.
“One must have a mind of winter… And have been cold a long time… not to think / Of any misery in the sound of the wind,” the January wind. So says Wallace Stevens in his poem, The Snow Man. Misery and discontent aren’t identical, but a series of small miseries — unrelated to wintry weather — means February snuck up on me this year, almost as if January never happened, so misery must do for my “winter of discontent”. To “the listener, who listens in the snow,” hearing the sound of the wind, the poem promises if he becomes “nothing himself” he’ll “behold / Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” People “cold a long time” can go numb, of course, and numbness is a kind of “nothing” obliterating misery. But numbness seems insufficient for a “mind of winter”.
For our own survival, we see winter’s cold as hostile. Our success as biological beings depends on our sensing discomfort, in order to mitigate risk before it’s too late. Concern for our own comfort is a form of self-regard that isn’t optional, if we care to live. Nonetheless, necessary self-regard is still self-regard. A mind of winter leaves self-regard behind. And so, it sees wintry beauty — the snowy, frozen world lit with “the distant glitter / Of the January sun” — simply because it is there to see, irrespective of what it might mean to the self. Winter in itself isn’t hostile, just indifferent: self-regard makes the indifference seem hostile. A mind of winter is “unselfed”.
Okay, so we don’t have much of a winter in Florida. Today the temperatures will rise into the 80s. The palm trees float in the breeze; many trees still have their leaves; the grass is a bright emerald green. Many people come to Florida because they are escaping the dreary, cold and snowy environs they live in the rest of the year.
But except for having to drive in snowy weather (like the blizzard I wrote about in another post), I search desperately for signs that the seasons are changing and that winter has arrived. Earlier in the fall of 2019, there was that first morning when the crisp morning air told me that change had arrived. Yes, it was subtle, but I insisted in honoring its message. Some of the trees here actually do change color and shed their leaves in an effort to rest and draw back for a few months. I find myself wanting to draw in just a bit myself, and to respect the passage of time.
Winter is also a time for memories when I recall being in the snow: sledding down mountains, skiing on my first bunny slope, tackling the ski lifts and landing in one piece at the end. It reminds me of shoveling snow, slipping on an icy path, holding our little dog in a towel to melt the ice balls clinging to her coat.
Two years ago today I wrote this. Since then it has been two years of being always winter. There is still a Janet-shape hole in my heart and always will be.
Do not get me wrong. I have been in many ways fortunate over the last two years. While it is always winter it is not always winter and never Christmas. My winter is not the Norse Fimbulwinter. There are thaws and mild days. Christmas comes.
Saturday was the Shortest Day of the Year. I mean, if you live in the northern hemisphere; and it’s really, really short if you’re north of 40 degrees latitude. I completely understand the motives of the ancient Druids and my Swedish ancestors who celebrated this day. Someday, I’d love to go to Stonehenge for this day of limited solar exposure.
I don’t care for the diminished daylight of November and December. I love sunlight. I live in the Mojave Desert where it gets scorching hot in the summer, but I still love the sunlight. It feels so depressing to me to have the daylight disappear at 4:30 p.m. I’ve lived further north than this, too, and had the light leave even earlier. The Nevada state song has a line that says, “…Out where the sun always shines!” and I expect that promise to be kept.
4:30 am. Monday. Temperature -20F. Ray Barracks, Friedberg, West Germany.
It’s the coldest winter since the Battle of the Bulge. That was in 1944. This is 1978.
Every Monday and Friday, our mechanized infantry battalion, 1/36 Infantry, 3rd Armored Division, has battalion P.T. or physical training, calisthenics. The other days, its company level. But on Monday and Friday, the whole battalion turns out on the battalion parade field for P.T.
In mid-September, when it rains at my house it snows on the mountains. It’s a sight that sends people’s thumbs into a flutter, and soon my Facebook feed is filled with image posts labeled TERMINATION DUST, a harbinger of the dreaded first snow.
The white we see up there will soon be down here, and it sets in motion a few other things, like tires. Autumn means it’s time to dig the winter tires out of the shed and get ready to spend an afternoon with the impact wrench.
After a brief venting about the inability of people in Washington to deal with winter and their instinct to turn their misery into some sort of imaginary historical event, Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud the results of a Government Accountability Office report showing that all 72 attempts to privately purchase a firearm were rejected once the seller discovered the supposed buyer was legally prohibited from owning a gun. They also shake their heads as Oprah Winfrey’s well-received speech at the Golden Globes immediately prompts serious talk of her running for president in 2020. And they are less than impressed with both Jake Tapper and Stephen Miller after their Sunday morning interview devolves into shouting and controversy later ensues over whether Miller was escorted off the set after Tapper abruptly ended the interview.
The first snow of November, as the light begins to fail. “One must have a mind of winter / To regard the frost and the boughs / Of the pine-trees crusted with snow; // And have been cold a long time…” If I told the tale of how I became so fond of this poem, […]
I’m sorry, but really this breakup is final. You’ve been unfaithful to me for months, dallying with others while making only token teasing efforts in a vain attempt to convince me that you’re even still paying attention. You’ve been running hot and cold now for 3 months, only showing up when another is making her frankly more pleasant expressions of affection known. Life is too short for me to keep dealing with your teasing ways, so I’m moving on. As far as I’m concerned, our relationship ended at the holidays. You did not even show up for my birthday, instead cavorting with others hundreds of miles away. I know, I saw the pictures you were tagged in on Facebook, and the happy faces of the others whose lives you graced. I even saw them building a snowman with you when you had sworn we’d at least have a few exclusive days together in February. As far as I’m concerned, you walked out first, and I’m not taking you back.
Now again you tease and promise to fly in tonight, but we both know the only time you’ll spare is a few token hours of flirting and teasing before you melt away and leave me to clean up the mess. There will be no passion to it, just a perfunctory dance of half-remembered maneuvers. And your rival is daily flirting with me, bringing me flowers, songs, and energetic storm-tossed nights, while you rage and bellow in far off places. She caresses my hair and embraces me fondly while you slap my hands and burn my ears with your wild and now meaningless scoldings. She brightens my days with the sunshine of her presence, while your erratic arrivals cast a pall and leave behind salty trails of tears on my paths.
I’m calling it – Winter is over. Looking at the 10-day forecast on weather.com for Buffalo, I see that the high temperature every day but one will be in the 40’s or 50’s. That means that even if we get snow, it won’t stay. I probably won’t have to shovel the driveway again, and I’ve […]
“the glory is fallen out of / the sky the last immortal / leaf / is // dead and the gold / year / a formal spasm / in the // dust / this is the passing of all shining things” … into the night so dark no night could be darker than, the cold so cold, no cold could be colder than; the journey through “The mile still left when all have reached / Their tether’s end: that mile / Where the Child lies hid.”
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overmaster it. But neither has light overmastered the darkness: lights do not shine in darkness unless darkness predominates; when there’s mostly light, we see the darkness as residual shadows, not as the ambient state.
Darkness is in one sense the enemy of God, of Christ who is Light, whose dawn at Easter irreparably shatters the dark of death and hell, the light of the eighth, eternal day, shining for all days before and after:
A snowstorm is currently threatening America’s capital, which has brought out all the jokes about that city’s lousy drivers. This makes me wonder if there is a narrow zone — a belt, if you will — across the middle of the country where one encounters the most incompetence during snowfall. South of this belt, snow is so rare that it generally keeps people off the roads entirely when it happens; above the line, drivers are — what’s the opposite of incompetent? — competent.
I’d like to ask Ricochet members to nominate their home cities for membership in the Snow Driving Incompetence Belt (SDIB). Here in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we’re very safely in the Competent Zone. Places like Dallas and Tampa are solidly in the No Snow Zone.
I’m guessing the SDIB starts in Maryland, passes through Tennessee (or does mountain weather interrupt the belt?), continues on to Oklahoma, and then veers north to Oregon.
In my post about snow I mentioned that I like a Tom & Jerry about this time of year. In the Wikipedia page just linked, I was intrigued to learn that this is a regional treat, and quite a circumscribed region at that. So even though the local bakery here sells tubs of Tom & Jerry […]
The only thing more intolerable than having to do actual work at work is attending mandatory, work-related, after-hour social events. Here is a lesson for all you youngsters out there who are trying to determine if you’re going to have children in the future. In addition to weighing the benefits of future kidney options and […]
Recently, some of my friends dreamed aloud about a cross-country pipeline moving water and snow away from flooded or snow-plagued areas to regions suffering from drought. Rather than shovel excess snow into useless piles until it finally melts and swamps the city, why not transport it somewhere dry? What might be the most efficient way […]