The Winter Of My Discontent
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My wife and I recently moved from suburban New Jersey back to the heart of New York’s Catskill Mountains: the town of Phoenicia. It’s difficult returning here in winter. Everyone we meet has a lost, distracted look, as if they’ve already watched their entire video collection twice and now spend their evenings staring up at the spot where two walls meet the ceiling.
To prevent seasonal affective disorder I force myself to take a short walk every hour. (Actually I skip most of these walks and generally complete about three a day.) As I walk our road, I talk to myself: “It’s as cold as a barber pole in Patagonia!”
When I was a child, everyone said, “It’s as cold as a witch’s tit.” I suspect that phrase is leaving the language. For a brief time in the early seventies my hippie friends would declare, “It’s as cold as Nixon’s heart.”
When we first moved to Phoenicia in 1998, wise friends advised me to find a winter sport I enjoyed. I never found one, unless you count complaining.
Snow is falling on snow that fell on snow. God is like an artist who paints over one painting with another.
After several years of living in Phoenicia, I began to wave at every car — because every driver was waving at me. People in the deep country wave at everyone. It’s the rural-U.S. version of a Buddhist practice: “I honor each being who passes.”
One of the benefits of having facial hair is that I always know when the temperature falls below fifteen degrees, because my mustache hairs freeze immediately.
God attempted to destroy the world with rain but never with snow. Why? Because the Bible was written in the Middle East.
Is it possible, by an act of imagination, to see winter as a physical-fitness regimen, like joining a gym or the Marines? “Winter is my personal trainer!” one might boast.
Snow, when it gently wafts, makes rain look positively militaristic. Today the snowflakes are falling in seventeen directions at once.
One of my fears is that I will be murdered by a snowplow. These massive machines cruise the back roads with impunity, oblivious to pedestrians, ungoverned by law. If they knock over a mailbox, everyone grins.
The snow in the driveway melted and refroze, becoming a sheet of ice. No matter how carefully you stand on it, you almost fall over. Walking down our driveway is like taking an African-dance lesson.
Today I am traveling to New York City to celebrate my father’s ninety-second birthday. Riding the subway to my parents’ apartment in Brooklyn, I’m ecstatic to be surrounded by people rather than frozen water. This is what I love: hurtling through darkness with a crowd of strangers. It feels sexy and courageous.
I want to kiss the floor of the F train.
There are no antisnow songs. All lyrics about wintry weather are highly sentimental: “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”; “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” No one ever writes “I Wish This Fucking Snowstorm Would Stop!”
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