Monday, January 12, 2009

Heart of Ice

I don't like cold weather. Years ago when my brother got married, the bride's brother, a triathalon athelete and life-long resident of Dallas, asked me what I "do" during the Ohio winter. "Sit inside by the fire and read" I said. And that's my plan for the rest of the winter.

Yesterday I spent all the daylight hours and on into the night waiting for two one-hour flights, and then retrieving my car from airport parking and driving for an hour on rural two-lane highways in the snow. What caused this to be such a protracted process? An hour of freezing rain sometime in the hours before dawn.

Why do I even go anywhere in the winter, I had to ask myself. And part of the answer is in this poem, Why God Invented the Cold, by Catie Rosemurgy:

To give the people a break
from repositioning their lawn chairs.
To give us a glimpse
of life without bugs. Without weeping welts,
the odd fever, and yellow smears on our shoes.

To confuse the boys.
To force them to ask, "Why do teenage girls
smoke outside in January until
their nipples get stiff? Why do they
stand around with their coats undone and life

smacked onto their cheeks?
Am I that promising?
To caution the men
that the boys will turn into
against following their semi-aroused girlfriends

into May lake water. Seasonal Affective Disorder.
To break up lonely highways
into manageable chunks. To make it clear
just how stupid it is to climb
the highest mountain. To encourage sweet futilities

like cuddling and mittens. The powerful
sleep lobby. To give drunks a softer, deeper
alternative to liver failure. Blue lips
and frosted eyelashes. Ski pants,
for Christ's sake. Dark roads, tight sweaters,

no boots, and stalled cars. Wanna ride,
need a lift? Country love or homespun
complex legal issues. His word pressed
firmly against her word. Zero degrees
and fourteen snowmobilers missing.

Natural selection. Two feet of fodder
for made-for-TV movies and more expected.
No fiber, calories, vitamins, hallucinogenic
properties, or nicotine without the tar. Just pain
in your membranes, unexpected falls,

sprained ankles, and hyperextended
thumbs. To see if you can
catch yourself. To put you down. You thought
you were mean and hard to figure out until
you found out about windchill.

To give us a way to understand
people who won't give us sex,
meter maids, Siamese cats, what it's like to kiss
your best friend's lover. To distinguish the sweat of euphoria
from the sweat of shock. To up the ante.

Because he could. Because he's lonely and it leaked
out of him. Because he wants attention
and a fluffy blanket that's big enough to cover his toes
and reach his chin. To create melting. To give us
another hint that the body is dead.

To add ice. To let him come as close as he can
to holding some of the glittering water he made.
To let us skate where we couldn't two weeks ago.
To let us glide on top of darkness.
To show us what it means to break through.

Now I have more images to add. The maintenance worker at the convention hotel who opened a back door for us so we didn't have to walk around to the front through an icy parking lot. The hotel dining room waitress who cheerfully provided separate checks to a table for twelve just as the restaurant was closing because of bad weather. The shuttle bus driver who got up early on a frozen Sunday morning to get us to the airport. The young man who, burdened by his own luggage, also shouldered my carry-on bag for the two flights of stairs from the small-plane airfield to the airport security gate.

I don't notice kindness as much except when it penetrates the vast misery of cold.


paj said...

It's cold here this week. Real cold. Not "Texas cold," as we sneered at Texans who complained when the temps dipped into the 50s. Tomorrow will be the warmest day of the week, with highs in the upper 30s. Not bad. I'll do all the week's errands tomorrow. But Friday, when the high will be 15, on Friday you'll find me at home, wrapped in a blanket as much of the day as possible and reading my book club's selection for this month.

Jeanne said...

Yeah, our bunny is going to have to stay in the garage for the next few days.