Monday, April 6, 2009
The Ice in Me
It is April. I'm not sure what that means where you live, but here it usually means low, gray sky, and moist, chilly air. The cold, muddy soil, saturated with melt and rotten leaves, rises to the surface, as if the Earth were recycling itself, taking a slow, deep breath in preparation for what come next. But the days are getting longer and its finally safe to expose your skin to the air. Safe, too, I think, to reflect on the dark, frozen world that is our state in winter. Specifically, the cold, that strange, empty condition of the air.
Extreme heat, at least in the country's humid center, is like a foreign object added to the air, a heavy substance that must be waded through or borne like an extra layer of clothing. The cold is a different sort of presence. More like a rearrangement of fundamental particles. Instead of being projected by objects, from outside, as the sun, buildings, cars and human bodies project heat, the cold--and I'm talking about serious cold, like -20 plus windchill--seems to be a simple fact of space, an altered state of matter. Molecules sharpen and become still; water becomes ice; geography and space are reshaped; the world becomes cold.
The few slushy, unfrozen sections of river exude hulking clouds of steam; the light is pale, wan and bracingly clean, every moment of daylight a version of dawn; the air is white. Stepping outside becomes a process of being absorbed into, and penetrated by this new physical reality. Our bodies are radically compromised, dissolved by cold. The weather is inside of us. This place isn't unfit for life, as many here joke, but maybe fit only for some new, diffuse kind of life, a species less reliant than we are on physical integrity as a basis for its identity. And, holy shit, don't even get me started on the wind.
Seen in this light, all other states of weather are like a variation on the theme of warmth, gradations within one basic category. The common springtime metaphor of awakening is pretty apt, I think. Its not just that new things grow, though. Its like everything--the air, the pavement, the sky, our skin and eyes and organs--is waking from a dark, strange dream, in which things were somehow both less whole and more vividly defined. I'm ready.