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.
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
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
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