Waiting on the storm


Sunday, January 25, 2015


We wait on the arrival of snow amid conflicting reports, the way we often wait for a train or a plane or a bus to arrive, never knowing exactly what to expect when, only that something will happen.

I’ve lived my whole life in anticipation of something I can’t anticipate, precipitation that comes with the anxiety of what I want to happen verses what does, or even more importantly, what should.

I like snow storms only if I do not have to go anywhere in the midst of them – just the way I like disruption of our orderly existence, mostly because our orderly existence belittles most of us, turning us into robots and our lives into routines.

But then, I hate the aftermath of disasters – be then super storms or blizzards – partly because people do not know how to behave among the wreckage, and the most savage part of our evolution shows itself, greed over small things in order that we might have them when no one else can. Fights over parking spaces or rock salt which diminishes any concept of civilization we might have engendered for ourselves.

Snow storms make me feel lonely, isolating something inside myself as well as outside.

I remember being snow bound in a cabin in the mountains about Greenwood Lake with my uncle one year – the road from his house to the first paved road so thick with snow we could not have walked out even had white out and heavy wind made walking off the side of the mountain very possible.

Our lives had come to a crossroad that winter. I had just come back from the west coast and turned myself in for crimes I had committed a few years earlier. He was giving up his dream of becoming an artist or a musician for the more practical dream of simply getting a steady job. We played cards to keep ourselves occupied, and talked, but tried to avoid those subjects most painful to both of us, the sense of being lost, of not being able to find the right way back to the path we were on before life ripped away our dreams.

I was so lonely inside and outside myself, even this company was welcome, as snow mounted up outside and on the roof.

His was a stone house with redwood beams, more than strong enough to bear the weight of the world upon it. But I was not nearly so strong, and felt each inch of snow mount up inside me until I faltered.

We ran out of cigarettes first, then food, and propane for the stove and heating, and finally had to rely on firewood and the small fireplace we fed cautiously not knowing when the snow would stop or when we could get down the hill to the store where phones were still working and we could call for help.

I didn’t anticipate dying. But I kept thinking of a similar scene up near the Canadian border just after the birth of my daughter, when we had presumed too soon that spring has spring only to have a late spring blizzard seal us up in a farm house where we also ran out of propane and had to use our bodies to keep the infant warm until one of us could walk out to find some more fuel – which I did in the morning having no mountain to fall off of, just a straight road that was rapidly melting before me.

I look ahead to the new storm with less trepidation. This is the middle of the city where we might lose power, but not for long. The biggest risk we always face in such things is losing ourselves, and trying to find paths that may no longer exist for us, and that we might not fall off any mountains, we certainly might fall out of our lives and land in something we never expected, and never prepared for.

While I still like the idea of disruption, I always fear the life I pick up after I pick up the pieces of civilization is not the same life I had before the storm hit, and I wonder, can anyone cling to what we presumed would happen, when something else happens anyway?


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