In the cold of night



October 5, 1980


It was cold last night and my girlfriend slept on the couch with the only blanket. I wrapped myself up in some thin bed spread I found in the den.

I kept waking up with each gust of wind, and from the chatter of my own teeth.

Winter comes, bearing its teeth like a vicious dog.

Outside, the leaves are turning and falling and blowing across the streets, and getting caught in the crystal grip of frost, and form the floor over which the snow will build its own little empire.

As cold as I get in my cold water flat in Passaic, I like winter, for its purity, for its silence, for its absolute primitive feel where is not in-between, just this barren sense of reality that shows no mercy to the unprepared, and paints the landscape with a limited pallet that makes me aware of shapes and sizes.

I love the bare trees like raised hands through whose fingers I see a cracked sky.

I love the sound of the moaning tree trunks as they struggle in the chill air against a stiff wind, struggling inside to keep whole against the intense low temperatures.

And here the cold has begun at the start of October, even before the baseball play offs have started, not to mention the World Series. The cold hints of the end of a season, and the slow stirrings of a new, darker, more deathly season, not quite death, but a suspension of life, a still photograph filled with more subtle motion, a respite that allows us to breathe deep before we begin again the rush of life that spring brings and summer after that.

I remember a few weeks after my daughter was born, we spent time on a farm that straddled the Canadian border. We had gone there to construct a camper for our expected return trip to Oregon, and found ourselves confronted with the last, furious fist of an unrelenting winter.

Mike, our companion, claimed at the time that the weather had been worse prior to that, but during that week or so, I couldn’t imagine how. Wind and snow swept over the farm house, prying open any gap in door or window, sending streams of cool air into what should have been warm space. On the fourth night, the butane ran out, extinguishing the small stove that heated the main room.

We huddled together during that long night trying to keep ourselves and the baby warm. I felt helpless against the curse of nature, but somehow knew that we would survive it.

Last night – although no where near as furious – reminded me of that night, and made me realize how lucky I am to have endured it, and survived it, and somehow, after such moments, life – regardless of the season – smells sweet, even with there are no flowers to cause it.





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