It is a winter’s tale January 10, 2010Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
“Time sings through the intricately dead snow drop. Listen”
–Dylan Thomas, “A Winter’s Tale“
It’s cold to the bone and nothing here is fit for it: not the collapsing tropical plants or the city’s vast swarms of feral cats which have vanished from the streets, not the ancient galvanized pipes strung under the raised houses or the houses themselves, built for the hot damp of the subtropics and not for this invisible glacier of arctic air that has somehow slipped off the top of the world and run all the way down to the Tropic of Cancer. I have four fireplaces. None of them work.
I lived for thirteen years with cold as this and worse in and around Fargo, N.D. I learned to deal with it, even to embrace winter as I discovered life where there are clear seasons and winter not the least beautiful. If you could stand outside on a perfectly still night and listened to the vague hiss of a dry snow falling, dressed well enough that you take a stroll around the house and watch the snow collecting on branches, you too would discover that Dylan Thomas was not raving mad drunk but wise enough to listen when only silence is expected and you too would stand and marvel in the snowfall and forget you are cold. An old friend sent me a set of snow shoes and I learned the pleasure of tramping through the woods or along the river on a still and sunny 10 degree day, learning how to turn the unwieldy beavertails to pass through low brush and how to edge up a slope.
If you never venture out except to drive the snow blower and shovel you will go stark raving mad before spring, and by spring I mean June. “The ice is off the lakes” doesn’t quite qualify as a sign of spring to a boy from New Orleans. Still, as the years pass you’re damn glad to see the last of the snow and ice, will stand out on your deck in a t-shirt in the sun at fifty degrees and try to catch the first whiff of spring, not exactly warmth because face it its fifty degrees out but the infernal chill that burns the skin is gone and the bare brown ground is at least visible and you can contemplate the reappearance of life. And you are free, free at last of that stubborn mule snow blower that won’t go straight and how many nights did I stand between those handles, wrestling the beast with my hips and wonder if this is what is was like to plow with a mule, except it’s not spring dirt but more damned snow blowing up and back into your face until your beard and mustache are caked in sweat and snot and ice.
The taps have been running on Toulouse Street for two days straight and I don’t even want to think about what the water bill will look like, or the electric bill either. Its been cold long enough that I’ve dug out the flannel lined jeans, the old insulated ankle boots I wasn’t sure why I brought back south, the sweaters I rarely wear and it seems as I drive out to pick up my son that I’m quickly readjusting to it. It’s cold. So what. I’ve seen worse and know from my time where the seasons aren’t Carnival and Hurricane (and from suffering through endless summers here that steam role spring and swallow half of autumn) that all weather will pass and it will warm up again, that the deeply rooted plants will come back and by the time my old neighbors up north get their seed catalogs I’ll be sweating as I haul new plants in from the car in the first heat of March.