A few weeks ago when it reached 60 degrees, one of the DJs on 97.1 said, "Well it looks like we get more bonus weather this weekend..." Try boGus weather. People don't seem to acknowledge the fact that the reason we have this uncanny weather is because our earth is dying...a little problem called Global Warming.
Snow and numb toes defined my childhood winters. I miss those days. Chicagoans who complain about the weather need to suck it up or move somewhere else. Personally, I love the variety and challenge of living somewhere with four distinct seasons…even when all four of those seasons show their fury in one day…it makes life interesting.
Now that it's finally winter weather, I thought I’d write about some memories of winters past.
* Building forts at the end of the driveway near the mailbox…I’d sit in them by myself and wonder what would happen if they caved in.
* Gathering fresh snow in plastic cups from the front porch so my mom could pour syrup on top of it. I’m still unsure where she came up with this idea…maybe it was just the poor man’s slurpee? But I loved it.
* Sledding by myself at "Pat's Lake" when the flag was green (meaning the lake was fully frozen and therefore ok to sled on). Then walking home with the wind whistling and it was only about 5:30, but it might as well have been midnight with the dark sky and lack of neighbors outside.
* Coming inside from playing in the snow and sitting on the kitchen floor with my bare, frozen feet defrosting atop the vent.
* Sitting in the backseat of my family’s minivan, driving somewhere at night. I tilted my head to look out the window. Huge snowflakes poured down at a certain angle, that against the black backdrop, looked like our van was propelling into outer space.
* After the first snowfall post-getting my drivers license my dad had me drive to the empty parking lot of the Korean church on the outskirts of our neighborhood. There he instructed me to do “donuts” so I would understand what it was like to drive in Chicago winters.
* The feeling I get almost every year when the ground is blanketed in snow...I don't want anyone or anything to ruin how perfect the untouched ground looks.
* journal entry from 2/17/03:
"Every news station tonight simultaneously reported on "Blizzard 2003" The east coast is hilarious. They freak out whenever it snows. It has been snowing for 12 hours now and we're supposed to get around 2 feet accumulation. I was sitting at my computer talking to Sheri around 1:30 a.m. and then went to over to the window--down below, 22 stories, in the open lot were two boys city sledding=placing a piece of cardboard on the ground, running and sliding on it while standing up. I needed to go outside. Zach and Kayla were of course already asleep. I IMed Chase telling him to go outside and play with me but he didn't respond. So I knocked on Tina's door cause I knew she was still awake and we went downstairs and outside. I shrieked and giggled and ran through the snowdrifts like I did when i was a kid. It made me so happy. How exciting it was to just run into the middle of Water Street and twirl in the falling snow. We crossed the street and walked in between the stores and watched the snow patterns swirl recklessly around the cobblestone. As we approached our building in return the one other person outside said my name and I was confused at first but just as soon realized it was Chase! I got so excited! We went inside to pack on more winter gear and went back outside. Walked to the seaport. Mine and Tina's footprints had already vanished. This time we went all the way to the water. We were out there for awhile taking it all in and everything was just so calm and beautiful...relieving. The walk back was brutal, windy snow stung my face and my nose was running uncontrollably all over my scarf. Nothing else on me was cold, though, which was impressive. We went to Chase's room and he made us real hot chocolate. Good stuff. We sat and talked for an hour. Chase said that he quit trying to figure out life and that his conclusion is we do it because we have to and the few rare moments that are filled with beauty are what last and what we try and hold onto. The last sip of my cocoa just missed covering the bottom of my mug so that when I moved the mug gently the cocoa shifted and the white circle of porcelain appeared in different places. The snow made the Brooklyn Bridge look like an apparition. The three of us sat there breathing. This, I thought, is one of those moments."
* Right before I went back home for winter break of junior year at NYU, there was another blizzard (12/03)….this is an email I wrote my friends on 12/6/03:
“listen to what happened today. this is really a piece of work. so i think i'm mentioned before that one of the huge windows in my room (which doubles as the common room this year) never really closes all the way. there is always a slight draft coming from the seams of it. this morning i noticed a few flurries coming in which made me laugh. as a precaution i took the picture frames off the window ledge that runs the length of the wall because some were old pictures of my grandparents. then i left to meet my mom at her hotel to help her bring luggage back here cause she's sleeping here tonight and taking some of my stuff home on the train tomorrow. i was gone about two hours. we came back and from the hallway you could hear wind in my room....like really loud monstrous wind and as i was putting the key in the lock i said, "haha hear the wind mom? i told you" but then as it took extra effort for me to push the door open i realized that something wasn't right. upon opening the door i immediately saw the problem--one of the three huge windows was OPEN, i don't mean a few inches like normal if you were to open it, open like you had opened a door. i charged across the room and took a flying leap onto my bed (which is right under the windows and rises a few inches about the window ledge) and slammed it shut but it wouldn't stay. nyu almost had a fourth falling student in a semester. 31 stories. my stuff was ALL over the place. and there were piles of snow on my window ledge where the picture frames had been and on my floor, which ruined some art paper i had under my bed. my mom tried to hold a suitcase against the window while i went downstairs and told the front desk that i needed someone immediately. a man met me upstairs and hopped up on my heater to try and fix the handle. a huge guest of wind came and shoved the window open again and what was left on my window ledge went crashing to the floor. including my favorite green lamp (which just last night i was telling kayla and my mom how much i love) by some ounce of luck it didn't break. this is going to sound crazy but while i watched the man fixing the window i had this regretful feeling that i should have taken a picture before he had come up there. instead i took a picture of him fixing it, but it's not as dramatic. anyone could have posed for that. oh well. my room is a disaster area so i'm gonna go try and clean stuff up...or take a nap”
About a week later, I had to wake up at 7 a.m. to single-handedly push a large cart of stuff down the street about a mile to the storage building. Overnight it snowed about another foot. Carts aren’t meant to be wheeled through snow banks, but I trudged onward. It was difficult, but I managed….until one of the wheels hit something and the whole cart fell over. I just stood there in disbelief and thought, “Now what?” There was no way I could lift the monstrous thing back up. Not only was it huge to begin with, but it held all of my belongings (I was leaving the following semester to study abroad in Spain). Suddenly, a man in shorts (yes, shorts) came running across the street. I got excited because I thought he was going to stop and give me a hand. Give me a hand my ass. He literally ran right past me and didn’t turn around when I tried to say, “Excuse me?” He probably thought I was homeless.
The cart had toppled over right in front of the entrance into a Jehova’s Witness building. Two Australians, a man and a woman, who were headed there helped me lift the cart, and then proceeded to help me push it the rest of the way to the storage place. I didn’t even know how to thank him. This incident pretty much confirmed that I was supposed to leave New York.
And, finally, here is an anecdote I wrote almost exactly a year ago:
(January 20, 2006)
Around 3:15 this afternoon it started to flurry, and little hail balls bounced off my windshield as I drove home from Blockbuster. As I passed the Montessori school on Freeman, I saw three girls crowding the open doorway on the side of the building. All three arms outstretched, hesitantly, catching the little white pellets in their cupped hands and looking at each other in awe. It’s hard to believe that it was 50 degrees and sunny yesterday while I spent my day off running errands in a t-shirt.
I rented March of the Penguins and Grizzly Man. I don’t know—maybe I was in the mood for nature. Probably more so for some inspiration as I’ve been lacking that for awhile. I wanted to see the ideas that some people conceive and manage to pull off. Seeing other people indulge in their passions reminds me that I have my own passions to reignite and that I should start creating again.
Morgan Freeman narrates the penguin documentary and begins by saying, “…This is a love story.” A love story that made me laugh. A penguin waddling is funny. A mass of penguins waddling is hilarious. These empire penguins make a 70-mile treacherous journey multiple times a year. Love can be a mean joke. But this breed doesn’t seem to mind.
After dinner, Jenny and I were going to hang out at Borders, but about a quarter mile down Algonquin I suggested it wasn’t such a great idea to continue any further, seeing as neither of us could see more than two feet past the car. Plus, the streets weren’t plowed. I asked if she felt like ice cream. I haven’t eaten ice cream in months. We detoured to Oberweiss on the way back, where I got the best milkshake of all time, made with chocolate-peanut butter ice cream. We brought one back for her dad, whose utility van got stolen today in front of Mayor Daley’s nephew’s house. Not that a milkshake will bring back his dad’s dogtags that dangled from his rearview mirror. But maybe it would settle his stomach a little.
The Grizzly Man movie I watched later on, drifting in and out of sleep on the couch with my dog curled up next to me. Around 1:30 I woke up to the sound of what I thought was the garage door. I watched the parts of the movie I missed. How does it happen that someone who dedicates his life to preserving the lives of bears ends up getting eaten by a bear? I guess you could say this was a love story as well. It has a tragic ending, but maybe all love does.
I started to wonder why my dad wasn’t home yet. For the past 20+ years he’s played poker with the same nine guys from the old neighborhood, the first Friday of every month, minus the summer. I think he’s at Orin’s, who still lives in that neighborhood over in Schaumburg, only a 15-minute drive from here. Hopefully the roads aren’t awful, I think, even though I know they are. Maybe I didn’t imagine the garage sound.
I opened the front door and there was my dad shoveling the path leading up to where I was standing. I opened the storm door a few inches and said, “Why the heck are you shoveling now?”
He looked at me, bewildered for a moment. He doesn’t like when I start conversations without first saying “Hi.”
“See my car?”
“Yeah," I said as I noticed it perpendicular to the curb. “Is it stuck?"
“I had to go get the plow on the other corner just to get him to plow the entrance to the cul-de-sac because the snow he had plowed down the main street made a 3 foot high pile over there,” he continued, motioning behind him.
“Well do you want me to help?”
“That’s up to you.”
I enjoy the nighttime and had already gotten a little sleep, so I bundled myself in a big purple coat and joined my dad in the winter wonderland. He was already halfway done with half of the driveway. I asked him if he wanted me to take over, but he said if I wanted to help, there was another shovel in the garage.
The only sound is the shovels scraping the driveway. Two of my goals in life are 1) to better understand my dad and 2) to be ambidextrous. Snow is silent and heavy. About a quarter way down my side, I started shoveling with the opposite hand in the lifting position. If I am going to be sore tomorrow, at least I’ll be equally sore. It occurred to me that I might have just completed both goals.
My dad wasn’t wearing gloves. Or a hat.
“I don’t think anyone ever expected this many inches. I mean I read eight inches somewhere, but even that was just one source.” He sort of chuckled, “Tom Skilling’s going to have a ball with this tomorrow!”
“Oh he’ll come up with all kind of record-breakers—largest snowfall above freezing…? I don’t know.”
I responded by throwing a few snowballs in his direction; a handful hit him directly in the back. He didn’t turn around. When he finished, he started right in front of my van just as I was getting to the same spot. We finished the driveway by shoveling the last bit of snow together.
Before he went to retrieve the car, he wiped some sweat from his forehead and said, “I broke my three-year winning streak tonight.”
At 3:45 I was still awake when the power went out. I think too much in the dark. Penguins and grizzlies and blizzards, oh my.
* * * *
In conclusion, go rent An Inconvenient Truth and figure out how you can help stop global warming and bring back the real season of winter.
I will leave you with a simple but beautiful poem that landed on my desk sophomore year of high school on a discarded page a day zen calendar page…:
Here in the stillness
of snow falling on snow
[photos: 1) taken 12/1/06 outside my house in the city 2 and 3) taken in 4/03 from my 22nd story window where i lived on water street in nyc, 2002-2003 4) taken the night of the story about shoveling with my dad 1/21/06]