All across the country, birds have journeyed away to find warmth for their wings.  People quietly approach their fireplaces to turn the logs because there’s mystery in a fire and to let one’s voice fall over it would somehow be irreverent.  Children pretend snowmen chatter in their front lawns and trees grow blue icicles from their branches.  Winter is a time of clattering storms and silent snows.

Unless you live in the desert.  Here, the temperature is 74 degrees today.  I see bunnies congregating in my front yard and a hummingbird laps at the purple flowers just outside my office window.  We’re like an upside-down world here.  While the rest of you shovel driveways, we jog down the street in shorts and tank tops, water bottles strapped to our hips.

It’s hard for us to imagine it otherwise — your icy world, the evidence of your breath steaming from your mouths.  But then again, it’s perhaps equally hard for Northerners to envision our July, when … always … some bright kids try to fry eggs on the sidewalk and a Southern fan makes a ridiculous statement under 115 degrees.

Grace Paley’s poem, Winter Afternoon, tells me of your world.  I’m as sorry for you now, as I hope you’ll find graceful thoughts for me in July.

Winter Afternoon

by Grace Paley

Old men and women walk by my window
they’re frightened   it’s icy wintertime
they take small steps   they’re looking
at their feet   they’re glad to be
going   they hate
the necessity
sometimes the women wear heels   why
do they do this   the old women’s
heads are bent   they see their shoes
which are often pointy    these shoes
were made for crossed legs in the
evening   pointing

sometimes the old men
walk a dog   the dog moves too fast
the man stands still   the dog stands
still   the smells come to the dog
floating from the square earth of the
plane tree   from the tires of cars
at rest   all this interesting life
and adventure comes to the waiting dog
the man doesn’t know this   the street
is too icy   old women in pointy shoes
and high heels pass him   their necks
in fur collars bent   their eyes watch
their small slippery feet

0 thoughts on “Winter

  1. About a week ago it began to “warm up” in the Spokane area. That usually makes the roads worse than when it was colder. It was a real trick/trip negotiating the parking lot at work. Completely covered with compact snow that was on step away from being ice. And that little layer of water on top…slippery!

  2. It’s slippery here too. 76 degrees today. It makes us feel it’s never going to dip below freezing. But ask the gentle Ficus trees who died two years ago. Ask the cacti who ask for not much more than a drink of warm water now and then. Ask the woman who leaves home at night foolishly thinking she doesn’t need to grab her wrap.

    I’m glad your weather’s a bit better. I’ve been holding good thoughts for some relief for you. Your amazing picture will go on this website tomorrow, given your permission, of course.


  3. Of course my permission is given. I was going to suggest that you could use it, but didn’t want to be too assuming.

    Weather wise, this area has settled in to a constant light fog. “They” issue “dense fog” advisories, but having experienced the TULE fog of California’s San Juaquin (sp?) valley, this is definitely a LIGHT FOG!!! Temps are varying around the freezing point, and with the humidity, the dampness cuts through. Seems colder than when it was in the teens and snowing! At least it does to me.