Our days reflect this mixed-up weather: a jumble of crystalline perfect snow, excessive heat for February, and an unraveling disorientation. Where’s everyone going? Who’s coming and when?
Maybe it’s simply the place I am in my life, solidly in my forties, when long-term marriages of so many friends are cracking – some to fail, some certainly to mend and reknit, even more tightly – and that beastly presence of cancer rears in overlapping ripples of my intimate and not-so-near circles. The upshot, perhaps, is that we’re all in the same literal journey, living our lives in an infinitude of variations, all of us making some wise and some foolish decisions, chancing into ill-fortune or light-hearted luck.
This is midwinter, season of no greenery, no blossoms, no barefoot running over lake-dampened sand. No garden to gather a basket of greens for dinner. No sun-sweet Brandywines in my hand. No stash of cucumbers the kids have quartered and sprinkled with snipped dill and coarsely ground salt.
Midwinter is the season of the moon on the snow-buried garden, the stars icy against the night sky. Midwinter is the pondering season.
A reader essentially my whole life, I return to talismans of poetry, repeatedly. I read James Joyce first as a teenager, his Dubliners filled with rooms conversely both shadowy and light-filled. Over and over, I think of the ending of “The Dead,” with steadily falling snow, that image suffused with sadness and grief, yet also with an odd acceptance – even more, perhaps, a genuine comfort in the “generalness” of snow, the transience of all our lives, how each of us will rub up against hardship. A piece of this luck, certainly, and some of the outcome simple grace in how we navigate our lives.
He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
James Joyce, “The Dead”