Friday, February 28, 2014

Long Cold Winter?

This winter has been long, cold and snowy. More snow is expected tonight and tomorrow. Everywhere I have heard people complain about how bad it is. But is it really? I suggest that we are fortunate to live through the winter with the amenities that technology has given us. We have electricity for light in the long cold nights, various types of fuel to heat our homes against the harsh cold, indoor plumbing for necessary bodily functions, cars to drive through the well plowed roads to our chosen destinations.

Many of us can recall some depictions of winter in other times when people lived without the comforts we have. We read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, The Long Winter, about the Ingalls family barely surviving in the Dakota Territory in the 1800s. They stayed in their rural home in bitter cold with little food for the long winter. And they survived to live on in better days. The book, Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak, told of harsh winters in Moscow and the Urals in the early days of the Russian revolution. I read the book and remember the movie, in which the wolves howled outside near Zhivago and Tonia while they nestled under blankets for warmth, and Zhivago and Lara while they huddled close to the heating stove where they wouldn’t freeze. That was winter! The movie industry showed it well.

Winter is described with great intensity in the well known poem, Snowbound, by John Greenleaf Whittier ( In our family, when our kids were young, Rick quoted it every time we had a snowstorm:
“The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray.
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.”

That wasn’t all. Rick would call up the stairs to John and the girls, again quoting Whittier’s poem:
 “A prompt, decisive man, no breath
Our father wasted: ‘Boys, a path!”
It was time to shovel the driveway and sidewalk.

As far as I know, this winter, while long and cold, has not been memorialized in literature, although it has dominated television news. The Ingalls family, Zhivago, and Whittier did not have television to show us what winter is like at its worst. They told us what it was like to live with it. We are living with it in greater comfort. We can stop complaining now.

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