Against Winter

Having been born and raised in the Tropics, I have generally been terrified of the winter. I remember my first winter in the United States as an adult. I was a freshman in college. I had been living in Malaysia for the last three years, and I completely freaked out. The days started getting shorter, all the plants started to die… and then it got cold. very cold.

I graduated from college and started my northward migration. Inexplicably, despite my absolute terror at cold weather, I moved north. First, from Williamsburg, Virginia to Washington, DC. Then from Washington, DC to New York City. And then from New York City to Vermont. What was I doing?

Last winter was my one — and thus far, only — winter in Vermont. This winter I’ll be back down close to the equator (although not close enough). Last winter in Vermont, though, I managed to survive. I think we had a month of weather 30 degrees below. And lo — I discovered that winter wasn’t so bad. It could be kind of wonderful, actually.

Nevertheless, as summer draws to a close and we find ourselves in September, I can feel the fall creeping in and a bit of panic enters my soul. My friend Anne emailed me last week and asked how I was doing. I responded with a poem, reflecting a grim-ish winter-is-coming mood:


One day I will fall into a sunken road, far from everything.
My dog will laugh and then, seeing me asleep, he will lie down to do the
same. I don’t know when my silence will worry him and what he
will do. He is a black and secretive beast.

(Georges Godeau translated from the French by Kathleen McGookey)

Anne wrote back with another Simic poem that fed right into my winter anxiety:

Against Winter

The truth is dark under your eyelids.
What are you going to do about it?
The birds are silent; there’s no one to ask.
All day long you’ll squint at the gray sky.
When the wind blows you’ll shiver like straw.

A meek little lamb you grew your wool
Till they came after you with huge shears.
Flies hovered over open mouth,
Then they, too, flew off like the leaves,
The bare branches reached after them in vain.

Winter coming. Like the last heroic soldier
Of a defeated army, you’ll stay at your post,
Head bared to the first snow flake.
Till a neighbor comes to yell at you,
You’re crazier than the weather, Charlie.

by Charles Simic
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So now I just wait. For winter.

One Response to “Against Winter”

  1. peter Says:

    Winter is to be neither accepted nor rejected; it simply is.

    If you decide to reject it, to rail and battle and struggle against it, it will maintain its particulars: 15 or 30 degrees above or below zero; screeching winds or no “wind-chill” at all.

    Dress appropriately. Accept the temperature. Embrace it, because it will not yield to your protests. Why would it?

    The answer to your struggle is simple: Dress warmly, spend as much time outdoors as you are willing to prepare for, and enjoy the many joys of winter. The stunning white wall of that cocooning first fall, and the silence it brings.
    Heavy-limbed conifers breathing their scents.

    The ugly slush days will come later. We’ll have appropriate coping mechanisms at that time.

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