14 February 2008
Au milieu de l’hiver
I knew a girl
Who tried to walk across the lake
Course it was winter
And all this was ice
That’s a hell of a thing to do, you know
They say the lake is as big as the ocean
I wonder if she knew about it?
It’s the bottom of the winter, that time of year when the dark and relentless cold and the sun hung low in the southern sky and the blinding white of endless fields of snow and ice all begin to look and feel like something quite less than picturesque. OK, we get it already. Would someone please turn off the bubble machine? It is a time when, as Prancilla noted on the phone the other night, everyone here is sullen and turned inward and mildly depressed from endless hours spent in stuffy apartments or underheated cars lurching and grinding from a cold start, ABS stuttering on snowy streets whilst blowing stop signs, frizzed hat hair, and salt stains on one’s shoes and cuffs.
Prancilla invoked an aphorism of our friend Djola, a former resident of this ice palace, who, remarking on his experience of several winters here, noted that after a Cold Place winter, one knows oneself quite well. And I suppose on some level that is true, although does nothing whatsoever to relieve the immediate claustrophobia, akin to wintering over at the Overlook Hotel.
One wonders why anyone ever bothered. Why didn’t the peoples of the First Nations and the grizzled francophone voyageurs and the mild-mannered lieutenants and the hardscrabble women and later the farmers and merchants and labourers who followed them just keep moving? Eventually they would have all fallen into the azure swimming pools of Southern California, and with any luck, have found a pitcher of Strawberry Daiquiris on a side table.
This is the logical response of people from warm places, people such as myself, people from places where it hardly ever rained, much less snowed. From places where lemon trees grow year round, where it is 95º on Christmas Day, where fecundity breeds fanciful visions, wilted ennui, magical realism, sun-baked dissipation, and the heat-induced dementia of louvered windows and toasted coconut mochas and Quetzalcoatyl and Angelyne and ten-lane freeways and pyramids and Lake Mead and Proposition 13.
The brittle cold on this edge of the world does not allow for such fantastical escapism, for better or for worse.