*A brief note of explanation to avoid confusion – This passage was written in mid December. Life being what it is (busy/unpredictable) I wasn’t able to post it until now.
It’s night and the house shudders in the wind. Today’s snow has turned to sleet. Freezing rain is a burst of pellet spray against the windows. Something heavy thuds down outside. There’s a hum before the furnace kicks in with a comforting rumble but cold air still finds a way to creep in through the lath and plaster walls. For the first time this year I hear a plow pass by out on the highway. I miss November.
Normally by this time I’ve seen enough snow to last me the season. This year there’s barely been a dusting (until today). December’s brought a lot of rain mostly. It was a brief reprieve before the inevitability of a Canadian winter. The gravel drag of the plow blade as it meets pavement can’t be denied. I am nostalgic for November.
I don’t remember such a November. Maybe it seems singular in that every warm beautiful day stood in startling contrast to the rain and sleet and snow of Novembers past. Along the lakeshore the wind that ushers in the end of autumn is stinging, bitter with the winter to come. The wind that came this November was silken and warm. It was still strong but smelled of clean earth and sunshine instead of the damp and rot of a dying season. What should have been skies of pale tones of cornflower or dead slate gray were draped in summer shades of magnesium blue. The light was such that the early sunsets of short autumn days came as a surprise. Rather than frost-bitten brown, the fields and lawns wore green velvet expanses of fallow, moss, grass, and winter wheat.
The night sky was the most remarkable thing. On clear nights, a low ceiling of stars blazed over head so bright I swear you’d think twice before reaching out your hand for fear it could burn in that cold fire. The moon, in part, and in whole, was like no other moon. Early in the evening it rose as a titan figure gigantic on the horizon. Often crowned in a halo, at its zenith the light of even a sliver was bright enough to give pause. One night in particular, at its rising, the moon was a Cheshire grin of golden caramel scooped out of black velvet skin. By midnight the crescent above was hard white, so brilliant that the moon was outlined in a diamond silhouette. That night I dreamt I lay sleeping within a curved arm of golden skin sheened in silver light. I sheltered in that languid embrace until the break of day. When I awoke I swore a scent lingered in the linen, the crisp smell of fallen leaves and something else indefinable.
The wind is howling now.
It’s so cold and dark.
I miss November.
It’s -12°C right now (that’s about 10 °F for you Fahrenheit users). I think the coldest it’s been here this winter has been – 22°C. The drifts of snow are so high in my backyard that the dogs are having trouble finding spots to comfortably do their business. The cats act as if it’s a personal insult every time the kitchen door opens and a blast of winter air rushes in. It’s cold outside and I have ladybugs in my kitchen.
When the crop rotation behind my house is beans, come harvest time, we’re inundated with ladybugs. They cover the back of the house and creep in through cracks. You have to give the back door a good shake before you open it all the way or ladybugs will drop off the screen right onto you like nasty little assassins (despite the “lady” in the name they certainly aren’t ladylike – they bite). Because they range in colour from light brown to red, I accidentally ate one once thinking it was an un-popped kernel of popping corn. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever eaten but it was pretty close.
Two weeks ago a big fat fly flew into my head. It ricocheted off and landed on the floor all winter sleepy and easy to catch. A couple of days later I watched one of the dogs lick a spider off the wall. It wasn’t even a regular house spider but one of those stilt legged monstrosities that lunge along like the alien machines in a H.G. Wells novel. The other night I was lying in bed and I thought I heard a mosquito. Maybe I was dreaming, or it could have been a delayed concussion from that fly whacking me in the head. On reflection it couldn’t have been a mosquito. It could have been the hum of a dying light bulb or a fly induced ringing of the ears. The alternative would be to have to wonder about the why/ how of a mosquito in my house – in FEBRUARY – in ONTARIO – CANADA. And I’m not willing to do that.
Fall is long past. It’s February which is the time of year that all the creepy crawlies and antennaed thing-a-ma-bobs should be hunkered down into whatever crevice they’ve opted for to avoid the deadly grip of the season. Having bugs around in winter is definitely something I could do without (especially the ladybugs). If I had my way the fact that it’s cold enough to freeze our pond outside should mean it is cold enough to keep the bugs down and out. Here’s the thing- Summer and fall it is warm so you put up with the bugs. Winter you put up with the cold so you shouldn’t have to deal with the bugs. It makes perfect sense to me. Now if I could just get the laws of nature to fall in line-that would be great.
Music for this post is Weezer- Go Away ft. Bethany Cosentino (Live Acoustic KROQ Soundspace)
Or if you prefer (in deference to the title of this post) here’s something from Ray Charles Hit the Road Jack
On windy days, when the sky is full of restless clouds, a dark bruise crowns the line of pines and winter bare branches that mark the shore. A purple watercolour blush, it bleeds up into an endless firmament where the cold gusts and driven clouds devour it whole.
It would be easy to believe that January and February are only made of driven snow and biting winds if winter did not throw us a bone of a sunny day here while the earth sleeps.
The rare sun in a cornflower blue sky festooned with puffs of giant clouds that swim through the air like white vaporous whales is brilliant. The light of sun and sky and snow dazzles so that the eye can weep tears of joy or discomfort.
Those days never last. What dawns bright is shaded by evening. Over night Old Man Winter howls around the house shaking the foundation and scratching at the walls with tree branches, ice stiff and brittle. Often the new day finds another layer of white covering the fields and trees.
Down on the shore the waves continue their ceaseless motion, building up layer upon layer of ice. The spray rises in the air, misting fingers of beach tossed driftwood and creating bridges that reach far out into the lake. Round floes bob up and down in the surf, concave saucers formed by the motion of the water and fickle heat of a winter sun.
Against the skies of blue grey, black vees describe the geometry of flight. The croaks of jays and the peeps of chickadees are hushed by a flash of the hunting hawk’s red tail feathers. Only the mourning doves call soft and low in the cold winter light.
The window frame centers the wall, a bas relief of cream against the waves of burnt sienna. Six feet high and three feet wide the window is corniced and crowned by the benevolent gaze of beveled bulls eye rosettes.
The muntin bisects the window into north and south. Each pole is divided by nine, graphing eighteen adjacent worlds each distinct yet sequential.
The soft fog of curtain sketches the surface in cabochons and brilliants. Within those hollows the concave drops of grey winter light rise up to rim the threaded borders. Minuscule mirrors reflect and magnify the morning composition.
Angels dancing on the head of a pin, each lavender puddle is a universe. Archimedes’ constant reflects from the pattern scattering in parallel arcs of fixed circumference. Echoes falling back, whorls of frozen meringue float down to cover the dark green of cedar bows.
Sound like ocean surf surrounds the house. The rising wind swallows it whole. Caught by the undertow, the unwieldy ship of home sinks to the bottom of the swell. Blind in the dark the house rides the surge straining and groaning in a current of sound.
Buffeting by tempest gusts the passing trees scramble for purchase, their skeletal fingers rake windows and eaves. The pale hands of wind drowned pirates shake the glass and drag gales of chains and rusty anchors across the roof.
Leaves and branches in streaming tidal flows frantically cyclone. Swirling down, the house and the swell, the ghosts and the trees, all fall out of the bottom of the sky.
Light cuts the dark as the night drains away leaving the house a beaten salvage on the landlocked shore of a brand new day.
The wind is full of a coward’s bravado. The downdraft worries the snow into drifts and hollows as it struts and swaggers about lording it over the yard. Ever the playground bully, it browbeats the trees and pushes the last of the leaves to and fro above the white risers. Caught by surprise the icy draught stops, startled, upon hearing a distant rumble. Suddenly uncertain the frightened tempest turns tail to seek out a haven, safe from the looming unknown.
All reason and sanity is cast aside as the cowed current rattles the windows and bangs on the doors to be let in. The ground trembles while the air grows heavy with a monstrous clamour. A metal juggernaut in shades of grey and gold, crowned by a sapphire gem, looms up through the sleeting white. Head down, its blind passage sends sprays of snow rising like crystal rainbows to shine in the wintry sun. Metal meets asphalt and sparks arc out to the side as its horn tears up the hoarfrost covered obsidian. The wind whimpers and cringes round the foundation, head down and eyes averted. The dissonance reaches a tumultuous summit only to fade away as terror lumbers off to devour the land further down the road.
Danger passed, the wind emerges to take up its bluff and bully. Swaggering about the yard the frozen bluster kicks the drifts and hectors the trees but keeps an listening ear pricked up just in case.
Condensation forms a new frame on the clear border between warm and cold. A puff of breath will fill the empty canvas now ready for smiley faces and backwards letters. The concrete stair, stiff and frozen, echoes the bleak sky. Odd shaped pearls of soft snow tremble in the lee of the stone, taking shelter from the inclement weather. An icy arctic river, bitter and wind scoured from the fields, flows across the road. Headlights carve a tunnel through the gloomy wintry night. The white wasps of cold sting and swarm only to fall behind impotent and lost in the inky vacuum of the light’s passing.
The wind is never ending, roaring and crashing, pounding like waves on a distant beach. Invisible surf whips the trees into a frenzied dance silhouetted dark against the endless sky. Points of light flicker in a wild syncopation keeping time with the feral music of the heavens. The moon clad in rainbow corona sits a distant wallflower flanked by stalwart Mars and fickle Venus. The primitive rhythm, savage and free, is a reminder of the scope of all mankind’s rule and order. Egos laid to waste, minute and storm tossed we ride the crests and flounder in the wells unmarked by a massive ocean of ferocious time and chaotic tide. Indian summer seems a distant memory. The ungentle dogs of autumn have come to savage the land.
Feral and wild they travel in packs baying out a requiem for the passing year. Delicate shades of crimson and gold burn and wither in icy fires of frenzied onslaught. The bare limbs of naked trees bower a funeral pyre built up of corpulence, rain and wind. Ashy snow will cradle the ember, hidden safe from grey bloodied jowls and cold snapping teeth. The lullaby of winter will wipe the tears away. In sweet slumber wounds will heal and scars will fade until the light of spring rouses the sleeper. The warming earth will fan the flames and the phoenix will rise fecund and strong to take to the air once again.
We are a small glimmer in the shadows of giants.