Saltines and Frozen Snow
It’s cold outside. I don’t know the actual temperature. Okay, NOAA says it’s 9F (-13C), but it feels like the warm side of Hoth. We were supposed to have a big ass snowstorm today, but the clouds just spit on us before blowing Canadian hell all over, and now we are an ice planet. It’s cold, is what it is. The sort of cold where you go outside and start tensing up because it keeps you warmer. The sort of cold where you’re huddling into yourself and fumbling with your keys, dying to get inside, and when you do, you almost weep with relief and swear you’re not leaving until April.
Despite this, I just went outside–briefly–and found myself thinking that it was cold, yes, but very, very pretty. Also weirdly quiet. I’ll never understand why snow does that, but it does. Cold seems to help, but it’s cold + snow that makes it seem like someone pushed the pause button. You notice more, or at least I do. For example, tonight I noticed that we are the only house with an uncleared sidewalk and the only house with the garbage bin still on the curb. This is because Dan has worked overnights since Sunday and is on his last tonight. Ah, the glamorous side of hospital pharmacy.
Technically, I could have scooped the walk and moved the bin. I had a legitimate excuse this time because Anna has been very sick and at home all this time, and I also subbed today in the afternoon. I have to confess, however, that I wouldn’t have anyway unless I had felt there was some urgent need. I will take on almost any interior project (eventually), but I’ve decided that if I’m going to play Donna Reed, when it comes to the outdoors I’m going to stick to the gender role until Dan lodges a formal protest. He has a fair case started already, since I have not once met him at the door in a swing dress, heels, and pearls. I also cuss far too much.
I did notice things, though, while I was out–like the way the snow glinted like diamonds in the streetlight, which I’ve always thought was a nice compensation for freeze-your-ass-off cold. There should always be frozen snow to glint when it’s this cold. I also noticed the crow tracks beneath the oak, which made me smile, because I know they were there to get the saltines and vanilla wafers I’d pitched there earlier. Yes, Ames has a horrible crow problem. But I like them. Someday they may become sentient, and I’m hoping if my progeny need crumbs tossed to them that they’ll remember the saltines. The crows and the squirrels. The world may forget me, but the wildlife will remember.
Obviously I did not stay out there long, but I’m still thinking about the snow and the cold and the quiet. It’s come so much earlier this year than I was ready for, and I admit part of me is a little tense at the thought of repeating last year. But we have plastic on our windows and have foam-stripped the doors and stationed blankets at every easy chair. I love Christmas, but my true bliss comes when it is over, when the decorations come down and the world is so spare, when it is still cold but without the tricked-out pacifier of shopping and lights and presents, when there is nothing but winter, raw and dark and unforgiving. At Christmas we are all meant to be at our best, and there’s a beauty to that, and an importance. But in January, in that darkness, we don’t have the script, and we don’t have the props. This January will be particularly dark given the economic whatsis, and I don’t want to think about how much more bad news can be dumped on us by the first of the year. And yet, I still find myself craving January. I want that darkness, that space where there is nothing there but what I have made, of what I have done and left undone, nothing but what the winter leaves me and, because I’m lucky, a warm chair, a blanket, and several cats to lie across my legs while I read.
I think I liked that frozen outdoors tonight because it reminded me of that moment, of the quiet to come, of that dark space of rest and reflection. It’s a time to be with myself and with my family, to watch movies, to read, to assess, to let go, and to make new beginnings. It’s a time you can’t hide from, where you see who you truly are and what you truly have. You can’t be distracted by much, because nothing is going on, and the weather is usually bad enough to keep you from going anywhere.
I’m lucky that in this modern age and in this country, even in difficult economic times, there is little to harm me in the cold of January but a higher heat bill and the limitations the bad weather will place on my life. I’m not losing my house, my husband will keep his job, and I like those who live with me enough that the thought of snuggling down with them through the worst of the season is a delight, not something to fear. I like myself enough, too, that I’m looking forward to what that quiet time will allow me to give to myself as well. I’ll keep writing stories, will keep pushing myself through the circus of submission, I will read and watch television with abandon, and whenever I have scraps and crumbs and spare saltines, I will feed them to the crows and the squirrels.
Not bad, Virginina. Not bad.