It's snowing today. And it's the platonic ideal of snow, at least it is now, at this very moment that I'm in, that none of you will be in by the time you read this because this is going to take me some time to write. But right now, at 12:15 pm on the 8th of March, it is snowing. It's the kind of heavy wet snow that settles in a blanket on your hair and face and feels as good as any two-dimensional blanket ever could. It is the kind of snow that calls to mind the Wallace Stevens poem, "The Snow Man," and the closing lines:
But the truth is, that even now as I write this at 12:30 pm on the 8th of March, the snow is turning into rain. If I were to go outside now—and I won't because I'm working—there would be no more white blanket covering me, there would be only water, sliding off my skin, being absorbed by my hair, and it just wouldn't be the same. So, instead, I will sit here and lament the death of winter, which, even though winter is not alive, it can still die. Ideas can die. They can be extinguished. Especially by water. And while most people I know celebrate the coming of spring and all the bright greenness it ushers in, I can't honestly share in that joy. Because spring is really about waiting for something, spring is about anticipation. I hate waiting. I hate wanting things. Winter never disappoints. It is always as terrible as you think it will be. Whereas spring? Spring is never as good as it's supposed to be. So, while everyone else celebrates the fact that winter is dying, I'm going to comfort myself with the bottle of rye that I keep by my side and curse the tyranny of the seasons.
Having to Go Outside
You know what I love about the winter? You can cancel plans or decide not to do the things that you really need to do and you can just blame it on the weather and no one will ever question you. Because they all know the weather is terrible. So there's no reason for you to feel guilty about spending a Sunday lying on your living room rug, spaced out on Benadryl, chilling with your dog, and watching a double feature of "Hiroshima Mon Amour" and "Vivre Sa Vie." Spring forces you to keep plans and be active. I hate active. I want to be sedentary. I want to stay in the same place and lose all trace of ever having possessed any kind of kinetic energy and winter is the absolute best time for this. I never want to go outside again.
It's 12:50 pm now and it's snowing again, maybe the rain will stay away?
I like to wear a lot of clothes. I like to wear layer upon layer so that my skin underneath gets imprinted with the nubbed surface of whatever knitwear I'm sporting that day. I can't do this in the spring. Summer is ok, because then you don't really have to wear any clothes and let's face it, what I'm really lamenting here is extremes. All or nothing. None of this middle-of-the-road stuff. I will miss dressing like Julie Christie in Dr. Zhivago. That's how winter lets you dress, and the loss of that is a thing to be mourned.
It is now 1:00 pm, and the snow is stronger than it has been all day, I think.
How come it is that all the worst books are thought of as "beach reads"? I will tell you. It is because when it is hot out your brain goes DEAD. Summer and spring are the worst time to pursue anything even vaguely intellectual. Winter is when you read. You're inside anyway. So, why wouldn't you be reading with a bottle or two of red wine at your side? The more you drink, the more the words on the page blur together in a way that would seem to make comprehension difficult but in fact, everything just makes more sense. Read "Ada" which might be Nabokov's most deranged book and read about the "downy dim apples" at the base of Ada's back and let the words blend together and feel safe in your book, safe in the cold.
It is now 1:20 pm and the snow is now rain and everything is terrible.
Winter is brown liquor and dark beer and spiked-coffee and bottle after bottle of red wine. Winter is dark and winter allows you to drink in the afternoon, because it feels like the night. Gin-soaked summer days are a lovely way to pass the time, but they seem to evaporate as quickly as the sweat on your skin does. Which is to say, very quickly. Winter drinking pins you in place, like a butterfly stretched thin and tight across a specimen board. You can't move, but you're not weighed down. I will miss that.
It's 1:35 pm now. It's raining. Just raining.
Soup, and Things That Stick to Your Ribs
You can't have soup in the spring, or the summer. Soup is a winter food (or I guess fall, but that's another halfway season for which I have limited patience). And there is nothing like a bowl of soup to make you feel warm inside and out. The French Onion Soup by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen is one of the most perfect soups out there and can not be eaten any other time than winter. Or at least it shouldn't be.
It's 1:45 now. The rain drops are falling fast and you can't even differentiate one from another. Every snowflake might be unique, but each drop of rain is the same. Rain is the most communist of precipitation forms.
I guess this goes hand in hand with reading, but it is in its own special class. Because poetry was made for the winter. Even poems that were written about the spring or summer tend to have been written in the winter. Just read:
I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
From waiting to not waiting for you
My heart moves from cold to fire.
I love you only because it's you the one I love;
I hate you deeply, and hating you
Bend to you, and the measure of my changing love for you
Is that I do not see you but love you blindly.
Maybe January light will consume
My heart with its cruel
Ray, stealing my key to true calm.
In this part of the story I am the one who
Dies, the only one, and I will die of love because I love you,
Because I love you, Love, in fire and blood.
Fatalism Is Acceptable
Everyone will understand if you're feeling dark and gloomy and fatalistic in the winter. No one wants to hear that in the spring. So for those of us who might not suffer from clinical depression but who do like to explore the darker side of life, winter is our season. It becomes acceptable—even encouraged!—to get all grimly philosophical and spend whole days sitting in bars reading Camus and hoping Springsteen's "My Father's House" comes on the jukebox but not actually wanting to get up because everything is absurd and all choice is illusory, we just let ourselves be blown about on the wind like the snow. We are subject to the whims of nature. And nature is no mother. Nature has no love. Nature is merciless. And so we sit in a bar, our coat dripping and drying in the corner, wishing our French was better, hoping the snow never stops. But it will.
Final Update: It is 1:55 pm and the snow that turned to rain is now sleet. It is wet out there. And still cold. So it's not all bad.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen