Thursday, November 3, 2011

Narnia Had 100 Years of Winter, January in Boston Only Lasts About 40-50, Max.

I am a Masschusetts native, so there has never been a time for me when winter wasn't relevant, and more then that, what it represents to me has gone through every incarnation during my lifetime. When I was a kid, and, I imagine, when you were a kid as well, winter was that iconic wonderland that we tend to remember through rose colored glasses. To a kid, the only negative aspect of winter is cold; things like shoveling, buying the gloves and the down coats, heating the house, driving the cars on the icy roads, those are all adult matters that children (and a select few 23-year-olds, ahem) don't think about. To a kid, winter is just another phase thrust upon us ( I mean uh, them) that doesn't quite have the same mouth-watering allure of the  holy grail of seasons, summer vacation.
But winter does mean snow.

And you guys? Snow means forts. Snow means snowball fights and big fluffy snow suits, snow means coming in from the snow which means hot chocolate with the little marshmallows or grilled cheese and soup. Snow could lead to SNOW DAYS. Which is when you're supposed to go to school? But you don't. You can stay inside and wear pajamas and play with your legos all day and watch old Paula Poundstone stand-up VHS' that you taped off of Comedy Central.

Okay well that might just be specific to 10 year old me but you understand where I'm going with this. Snow days rule.

That's what snow means to a child, but what winter means to grown-ups is totally different. I don't have to describe winter to ya'll; you guys know what it's like. It's freezing, it's wet, it's dark, it lasts forever. It has all those holidays in it which are nice but super stressful. I started reading "Winter" by Adam Gopnik a couple of days ago to try to alleviate the pressure (the metaphorical pressure and the barometric pressure - sudafed and I have become fast friends this season) of the oncoming darkness; I've never read a book of essays before, I assumed that essays would be like a boring novel-length book report, but they're definitely not, or at least these one's aren't. Gopnik is able to capture my attention with an easy, conversational prose that I find incredibly easy to read, and so it's not until I'm several paragraphs in do I realize that I'm reading facts about wood carvings and Hokusai and the Japanese floating city. It's like Gopnik is tricking me into learning. If only he also ran the online biology class that I am consistently getting C's in. Somebody email him. This is a choice opportunity.

Gopnik's most interesting impression of winter is that, while he himself tends to see it as I do (a dark hulking behemoth of grime, salt, and heaviness), he discusses the attitudes of winter from a varied collection of cultures; the lyrical french, for example, who compose poems and see winter as a majestic season, an opportunity to experience the glory of nature, compared to the luxurious Japanese, who tend to view winter through the fogged glass of a penthouse, swathed in fur and pearls; winter as a time of pampering. I'm totally fascinated by what Gopnik is going to say next. He skillfully interweaves personal diaries, descriptions of classical music, plays, all sorts of things, together to make 5 essays about something we can all understand: winter. It's so simple. It's so interesting. Read it. Don't go gentle unto that good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light! We can't just slough into winter, belly out, toes turned in, like a child in the wrong. We have to fight back, and this is a great way to start, by confronting winter and it's glorious history. Don't let the impending long months get you down, buckos. There will be dog days of legos, hot chocolate and Paula Poundstone ahead of us yet, so take heart, take Gopnik, and stride with me into the grey months that lie ahead. 

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