Friday, December 01, 2006

Snow day birthday!!!




I've never been big on birthdays. I don't send cards, nor expect any. And while I hope family gives me a present (or at least a cake), I expect nothing from friends nor do anything to bring attention to the date. I treat my birthday like Christmas, a day for contemplation and reflection, a time to take stock.

The weather gods agree and gave me the best birthday ever, a snow day birthday!!
Snow days rule. They're powder anarchy, a flat white plain draped over the craggy busy-ness of life. The anticipation of the snow day is almost as much fun. There's a palpable energy in the air as people talk about the coming storm and make fortifications (DVDs, snacks, hot cider) to get through it.

I walked through a blinding storm to get here. The radio said nothing about the university being closed. No matter. I need to be here to write and submit an abstract. Funny thing is the radio said nothing about NIU being closed. Everything else was announced. I figured the university was open. Of course, I doubted this on the walk over. Deserted Lincoln Highway. Thick snowfall. Light flakes. Strong winds. Drifts. Stratified layers around the corners of buildings. Visibility less than 10 feet. Good boots. Layered clothes. Dripping beard. Fleece-lined pants. Cup of coffee in one gloved hand.

Quiet world. Quiet. Quiet and wind. The wind speaks, whispers promises and threats. It's the only sound. Buildings, trees, street lights, mail boxes, and parked cars are obscured, reduced to essential, rounded, elemental forms.

For best work
you ought to put forth
some effort
to stand
in north woods
among birch
-- Lorine Niedecker

This weather reminds me of a character (I think in Rick Bass' In the Loyal Mountains) who tethered a rope from the door of his cabin to the wood shed so he could fetch wood during a storm. The natural human tendency is to walk in circles, favoring one foot over another. This can be deadly in a whiteout. People have died within spitting distance of home.
I am not in such danger, nor so at a remove from society to be so disoriented. Shucks.

The storm should abate around noon. The plows will do their work and the engine of commerce grind back into full swing. But this morning, on this, my snow day birthday, everything's suspended, all responsibilities and obligations put on hold. These are moments of grace. Angels and snow men hold sway. Tongues stick out, flatten to the sky. This is a time of fun and discovery, a red-cheeked return to warmth, hot chocolate, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, steaming mittens on the heat register.

Which reminds me... I see my boy Jon tonight. Esther's treating me to a birthday dinner. Later, weather permitting, I'm off to Geneva to visit my buddy Arbo at the newly-expanded Little Owl, his family's bar/restaurant downtown. Over the summer, I helped work on the expansion project in its early stages. I hauled scrap, removed nails and timbers, and spent one roasting hot mid-July day digging a hole in the floor. I can't wait to see the finished product. Plus, there's live music.

But right now it's quiet, except for the wind...

People, people--
ten dead ducks' feathers
on beer can litter...
Winter
will change all that
--LN






1 comment:

Austin said...

Happy birthday.

It's been unusually warm here in Boston, with temps today in the upper 60s, but that snow storm is supposed to come this way next week.