Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories  March 2013 | issue 447

The Winter Of My Discontent

by Sparrow

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Sparrow lives in Phoenicia, New York. One of his hobbies is making lima-bean soup for his ninety-eight-year-old father. His latest book is How to Survive the Coming Collapse of Civilization (And Other Helpful Hints).

January 10

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.

January 11

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.”

January 13

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.

January 15

Snow is falling on snow that fell on snow. God is like an artist who paints over one painting with another.

January 24

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.”

January 27

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.

February 6

God attempted to destroy the world with rain but never with snow. Why? Because the Bible was written in the Middle East.

February 10

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.

February 11

Snow, when it gently wafts­, makes rain look positively militaristic. Today the snowflakes are falling in seventeen directions at once.

February 12

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.

February 14

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.

February 17

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.

February 18

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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