The Long, Long Winter of Our Discontent
I woke up worn out by a dream that played over and over again. I witness a car accident. The car is on its side, in flames. I’m standing in a crowd and see a man trying to climb out through the car window. People all around me pull out their cellphones to dial 911. I rush forward, trying to pull the man up and out of the burning car. I drag him to safety while talking myself through a fireman’s carry.
People are still talking on their cell phones. They may have been taking pictures. I’m tired, coughing from all the smoke and I notice there is a second person in the car. I start begging people to help me. I do not think I can save this person on my own. No one helps. I awaken, frustrated, desperate and depressed.
For the umpteenth morning in a row, it’s below zero with a windchill factor in the negative double digits. We are supposed to get more snow today, which really means nothing. The frozen tundra of our urban landscape, melt-off frozen into sheets of ice on the roads, means the ice will be more slippery, if that’s even possible. We’ll go through the motions – ice skating lessons, workouts at the Y, grocery shopping. I’ll notice, with a dull glumness that we’ve tracked more salt in across the rugs that I’ve cleaned for the millionth time.
The washer is broken. We apparently purchased a washer running on alien technology, since no one had the $20 parts we needed to make the fix. They are coming from the UK and no longer cost $20. Piles of snow outside, piles of laundry inside. I try to rally, picking away at small projects, trying to at least keep the rest of the household caught up. I’m a third day in the same jeans.
I have seed catalogs, but even they fail to brighten my spirits. I know that long before the planting, there will be weeks of tree trimming, soil amendment, fence re-staining. They’ll be different chores than the winter tasks and will seem better for being outdoors, but it’s hard to imagine now. As much as I try to enjoy the winter landscape with ice skating and cross country skiing, I know I am a visitor in the hostile lands of the White Witch, who would rather freeze me where I stand than allow me to luxuriate in the beauty.
I’ve often said that I like living in the upper midwest. I like definitive seasons. We used to make jokes about snow birds who fled to Florida and Arizona. I understand them now, even in middle age. The joints move more gently, the skin doesn’t dry out and crack, the spirits don’t flag starting in early February from the long brittle days and the nights when the furnace can barely keep up with the plummeting temperatures.
The brain is going wobbly, leaping from one morose thought to another. My husband turns 50 this year and it hits me that even if he’s lucky enough to live long, he’ll die in the next 50. That I am three years younger has padded me mentally against having the same thought for myself. My thoughts continue along this path and I snort at my nearly comedic desolation.
With a sigh, I pull myself up out of the reading chair, lift the window shade and see the drifting of large snowflakes to the ground. The furnace grunts and kicks on, seeming as fed up with winter as the rest of us. Thank goodness that winter is much like the pain of childbirth – forgotten once life begins. Spring will wipe the slate clean, our relief more like gratitude than a simple change of season.