Friday, December 14, 2007

Cold Weather Prose

From Ethan Frome:

The last stretch had been the hardest part of the way. The bitter cold and the heavy going had nearly knocked the wind out of me, and I could feel the horse's side ticking like a clock under my hand.

"Look here, Frome," I began, "there's no earthly use in your going farther--" but he interrupted me, "Nor you, neither. There's been about enough of this for anybody."

~ - ~ - ~ - ~ -

The fact that admiration for his learning mingled with Mattie's wonder at what he taught was not the least part of his pleasure. And there were other sensations, less definable bu more exquisite, which drew them together with a shock of silent joy: the cold red sunset behind winter hills, the flight of cloud-flocks over slopes of golden stubs, or the intensely blue shadows of hemlocks on the sunlit snow. When she said to him once: "It looks just as if it was painted!" it seemeto Ethan that the art of definition could go no farther,a nd that words had at last been found to utter his secret soul....

From Doctor Zhivago:

It was bitter cold. The streets were covered with a thick, black, glassy layer of ice, like the bottom of beer bottles. It hurt her to breathe. The air was dense with gray sleet and it tickled and pricked her face like the gray frozen bristles of her fur cape. Her heart thumping, she walked through the deserted streets past the steaming doors of cheap teashops and restaurants.

~ - ~ - ~ - ~ -

That day the hard frost had broken. It was a still, heavy day; the cold had gone and the life had gone too--it was a day as though made for a funeral. The dirty snow looked as if it shone through crepe, and the firs behind the churchyard railings, wet and dark like tarnished silver, seemed to be in deep mourning.

And without further ado and absolutely no drama or exaggeration, I leave for a weekend in Cold Place In The Mountains (yes, I Capitalize Things Like A German). This will be a nice respite from work, and a much needed escape from the confines of the four white walls of my bedroom, which have begun to feel like a sanitarium. I am not entirely sure why I am leaving chilly weather for much colder weather, except that I have been told by someone I trust and whose company I generally enjoy that it will be fun. It is supposed to be very pretty. Something about the trees and the snow and the cabin or whatnot. It may bring to mind Little House in the Big Woods, or it may just make me want to plow a sled into a tree and pull an Ethan Frome. I am sure that's why he did it. It just got too cold for him and Mattie.

In any case, I am prepared with an inner fleece jacket, a waterproof insulated shell, sherpa-lined waterproof shoes (all purchased within the last two weeks, conveniently), borrowed ski gloves, and a wool hat and scarf. And since that is as prepared as a Southern Californian transplant can be, wool-cotton tights worn under jeans and ski-ish pants will have to do. I do not even know where one buys "long johns," or why they are still called such a name. Come now, you cannot even say it out loud in polite conversation.

While I am freezing and contemplating the cold and how it is the cessation of life and the will to live itself, I leave you in the capable hands of my good friend Paul Gowder, whom I am certain will try to depress you and convince you further not to go to law school or be a lawyer or do anything he has ever done in his still-young life.

See you on Sunday, unless I freeze to death or plow my sled into a tree.


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