the sunset magnifies itself in the ice
in a long stretch toward the horizon light
through thin bands of trees
Contrary to the petroleum-industry pawns in public office, there’s no shortage of evidence of global warming – or climatic instability, to be more precise.
In the 20 years I’ve lived and gardened where I do, we’ve moved a whole growing zone ahead – out of 11. In effect, we’ve gained two full frost-free months.
For perspective, consider a friend who recently moved to town. He took cuttings of one shrub in his new yard to the local nursery and asked what he could do to assure their flowering next year.
Nothing, he was told. Our weather’s now too warm for that species to bloom.
Which brings me to January.
It’s typically the coldest month of the year, the one where we get subzero temps and freezing water pipes, if we’re not vigilant.
What we’re not supposed to be getting is readings up into the 60s, as we are now. Not 6 or minus 6. Sixty-three, yesterday.
We haven’t even had many single-digit numbers this season. A few in the teens.
We remember the warm spell a few years ago that killed all that year’s peaches in the Northeast. Or, more accurately, the seasonally appropriate deep cold a few days later did.
Snowfall is another matter. Usually, much of January is too cold for it to snow. Instead, we got a half-dozen inches after Christmas, then followed by a slow, misty rain, which then froze solid. The white’s still there, but you have to be careful. You walk on top of it and slide, rather than sink inches into it. It’s treacherous.
Or was until yesterday. Our neighbor was out in his shorts and a T-shirt to finish shoveling his driveway, the part that his monster snowblower couldn’t quite handle.
I was able to get out on my cross country skis a few times in December, for the first time in three or four years. But after that I didn’t dare on this stuff, there was no way to control my movement. At my age, a fall could put me in traction. Banish the thought.
Meanwhile, I hear that the ice on our lakes is too thin for the ice fishermen, who usually populate the expanses with their colorful bob houses this time of year. Nope, not so far this one. Look, there’s a whole subculture devoted to that practice, and I’d bet the majority of them keep voting for the villains. It’s insane.
Well, the prophets of all this were poobahed back in the ’60s when their scientific projections saw it coming. And the self-interests of the oil industry have continued to decry it, shifting their stance along the way from “It’s phony” to “It’s just a normal fluctuation” to “It’s inevitable and we can’t do anything anyway.”
Doesn’t anyone else see how they’re on thin ice, just just as ignorant as the innocent polar bears caught up in their greedy blindness?
And as for the rest of us? I mean, if our temperatures here are running 20 to 40 degrees above normal, I hate to think about summer. How hot would that make it where you live? Maybe they’re hoping to rake in on our increased air-conditioning bills, too.
How about you?
Living in New England, I’ve been in rain falling at 26 degrees Fahrenheit and snow coming down at 36 F as well as mixed precip everywhere in-between.
Much of that, of course, depends on the temperature higher overhead (the case, too, with hail) or sometimes the ground-level influence of our nearby ocean.
Guess we just have to be flexible when in comes to dressing accordingly, right?
Have you ever encountered similar confounding or weird weather?
As we were cleaning up after our monthly turn of cooking and serving dinner at the local “soup kitchen,” I turned to a trio of high school students who help our Quaker Meeting crew in the project.
“Hey, stick around and you can hear a performance of ‘Messiah.'”
They gave me glazed looks of incomprehension.
“You know, the ‘Hallelujah Chorus.’ I’ll be singing in it.”
One of them changed her expression. “Oh! I know that!”
And she started to sing, but it wasn’t Handel.
My turn to smile.
“Ah, Leonard Cohen. My choir has a lovely arrangement of that, and it’s fun to sing.”
And then I sang a few measures from the classic oratorio, which they did recognize.
The evening’s event wasn’t my choir but an ad hoc assembly of singers from everywhere in the region, all of us stepping in with no rehearsal – you may know of similar Messiah Sings, a tradition that’s spread widely. It’s a blast and a great community celebration.
Meanwhile, the repertoire of my choir has a couple of dozen Hallelujah pieces. One’s in Russian, others in African tongues, and several in English. Funny thing, the word is part of nearly every language. That, along with Amen, Coca-Cola, and OK.
By the way, Cohen’s lyrics are powerful, honest, and heartbreaking, deeply grounded in Biblical incidents yet also personally confessional. His is a truthful and humbling counterpoint to Handel’s majesty.
Which experience better fits your reality this season?
As the vocalist in a lovely jazz trio at a party the other night led us in “Silver Bells,” with its echo in “It’s Christmastime in the city,” I was struck but the beauty of the lyric’s repeated sibilants. They simply sparkle and produce a visual impression of tiny white lights on an icy night.
The song returned to my mind while shoveling snow a few days later, and this time I was captivated by the appropriateness of the adjective “silver.” Not “gold” or “brass” but silver. Again, there’s a visual impression, but this time, also a suggestion of bright clear sound. Gold, in contrast, would somehow make me expect something more velvety or reserved or distant, while brass would point toward a louder, stronger, more industrial tone.
Yes, the poet in me is still wowed at that choice of “silver.”
Would any other word do the trick?