The cat is snoring, more a kind of low, listless, desperate sounding whine, really. She's clearly despondent, sprawled atop the sofa, suffering with Cabin Fever, staring out the window as yet another half foot of those infernal white flakes descends over the cat door and her yard. It's been months since she could come and go freely, just step out and take a lap, for godsake, a quick spin around the field, torture a vole or two – yes, she thinks, I'll never be allowed outside again, ever. And she blames me. No wonder she whines in her sleep.
Who rents a house here for the winter? And it's not the first time either. You have to wonder what it is that draws freaks like us to the inclemency of a Maine winter. Is it the drama of solitude? The peace and quiet? The occasional thrill that all this beauty, that view, all those stars, it's all for me? Or have I a cantankerous nature, a contrarian streak? (Don't answer that.) It's not like we're getting lots of writing and painting done (the ostensible reason for our presence here). Aside from jaunts to the gym and the odd tennis game, not much really gets accomplished. Copious hours of reading everything, watching HBOgo documentaries. (The one on the Fed is quite good, try the one about former fashion models.) I could certainly fill you in in some detail on what's happening with the Greek situation, probably other worldwide events as well. And why are the Israelis not paying to rebuild Gaza? What happened to "You break it, you buy it?" Complaining about lack of cultural activities amongst ourselves eventually gets to be tiresome. So much nobler to keep chin up, carry on. At that point you simply endure, no escape to a warm southern beach. For a fear lurks beneath that option, a fear of capitulation to age, of loss of hardiness, of nascent flaccidity. An admission that you can no longer hack the New England winter, cause you're getting old. And 'old' is just another word for 'on your way out'. God freakin forbid. Stubbornly we carry on. We shovel, split wood, we make cake.
There's a skylight in the bedroom of this house, one of its few saving graces. The skylight sits at about head height if you're standing in front of it. I sometimes wake in the middle of the night, my eye drawn to that black rectangle on the sloped beige (way too much beige BTW) ceiling where the sight of stars winking overhead sends me, reassured and sighing, back to sleep. On a clear day in winter, you can catch a distant glimpse through that same skylight of the blue Harbor, and a charming harbor it is, through the bare trees. But not this morning. Because, yet again, my wee window on the world is covered in snow. So your first thought of the day is one of having been buried alive. Noyce.
You have to wonder what life was like here in the North before the advent of giant snowplows, snowblowers, folks you could pay to plow you out and helpful neighbors willing to dig in and dig out. No wonder snowshoes were a thing. I've never seen snow like this, so deep and pervasive. The thought of having to somehow carve your own escape route through the ever-accumulating white stuff is why my housemate is out there now, shovel in hand, before the snow even stops falling, every single time the white stuff descends – an almost daily event lately. He speaks of "getting ahead of it" as he adds to the impressive height of white walls surrounding our pathways from door to driveway. As a native New Englander, a lifetime of experience informs his diligence. I speculate guiltily that he was out there, a small boy shovel in hand, digging his frosty way to freedom, around the time I was building sand castles on the beach in southern California, my experience of snow then a Christmas trip to Santa's Village, that snow covered locale just a short mountain drive away from my warm, sunny Los Angeles home. In other words, I grew up thinking snow was an option, easy on, easy off. This winter has disabused me of that notion for good.
Here's the thing: there's something really creepy about this much snow, about such unrelenting cold. I mean, we had no February thaw! There's always a February thaw! (whining now)
And it's not just Maine, not just New England. It's freeze ass cold everywhere. The Great Lakes are frozen solid. It's snowing and seriously cold in Texas. Philadelphia reports record cold. Could this be that climate change the scientists are on about? Perish the thought, says the Republican Congress, only yesterday another wacko took to the podium to denounce the notion of global warming in the face of so much cold! The world's scientists are in cahoots with the Devil Left Wing Nature People, their intention – to DESTROY THE OIL INDUSTRY! wait... what? am i missing something?
I sense this Republican may have given the game away with that remark, revealed his true mind: to Protect the oil industry at all cost, kowtow to those who pay for his re-election. Politicians who defend Big Oil and Chemical companies, denying the obvious result of a century of air and water pollution, cowardly politicians unwilling to concede or examine the downside of so-called "good" revolutions, industrial and technological, are their own peculiar brand of Lame Duck, rationalizing unconscionable votes as dutiful representation of what they know to be an angry and ignorant constituency. And here's the kicker: for these Romeos of the Right, the real agenda seems to be keeping the very jobs working in the very government whose destruction is their stated agenda! In no other job I can think of would you continue to be employed by the same employer whose destruction was your avowed aim. Back in the day they used to tell us: Work within the system! Make it better! Well, these guys have that down. Like termites, they will eat at it from the inside, one civil right, one accepted norm at a time, until it collapses. You wanna be a revolutionary – fine. (Bear in mind, one man's revolutionary is often another man's terrorist.) But don't expect a paycheck and free government gold star health insurance paid for by moi while you're at it.
We're all to blame for this mess. Despite my decades of recycling, driving gas efficient cars, refusing to buy grapes or disposable diapers, or shop at Walmart, now Target, now Home Depot, now God knows, all of them, despite walking when possible, trying my best to reduce my carbon footprint, I am as responsible as anyone for the mess the planet's in. Why only last week I bought clothes made in the same country we destroyed with Agent Orange. Am I doing them a favor? Isn't that a bit patronizing? How are they not still relying on us then? Why can't that shirt be made here? It was once. We need a rebuilt manufacturing base here, a green one; people need to buy less, buy better quality, buy american. A service economy makes everyone servile, poorly paid and without choices. Without real freedom.
Like we used to say in the 60s: Bring the struggle home. Fix the railways, roads, bridges, refund higher education to the levels of say 1966 so young people don't start their lives burdened with a debt monkey on their back limiting their freedom to choose, create, and pursue a life they want. We should be leading the way to a saner planet. And we're not. It's taboo to even have conversations about this stuff, considered impolitic, impolite, rude, people edge away from you at parties, or don't invite you at all. That's just not right. The weather is sending us a message: get together, get it together, don't be afraid of the New Enlightenment. It will require consistent, mindful sacrifices of convenience and egomania, but that's really all. Not much to ask in return for the survival of the human race.
It's a windless morning. The snow is still falling. Billions of large, soft flakes drifting side to side, Like shredded tissue, landing gently, one upon another. Accumulating they become something massive. Beautiful. I feel lucky to have eyes.
A few months ago, just as the cold was claiming this territory for the season, I was driving to the store, listening to the radio and grouchy about the coming winter. A tune came on, captivated me completely, I pulled over, called the DJ, and asked who it was, thanked her. The melody captured the beauty of winter so essentially, so utterly, I sat, entranced in the parking lot for ten full minutes, just listening. It changed everything for me, my view on not only the weather, but on life as well. It's good to remember that many things are both frightening and sublimely gorgeous. Nature. Love.
Here it is. (click on "here it is" to go to youtube link) Turn it up.