Après Philippe Delerm

(c) Ellen M. Banner/Seattle Times

Winter in a usually winterless place. The moment it starts, you already to begin thinking about the end. Like an overzealous nurse or an overprotective parent, you worriedly scan for symptoms. Symptoms of winter’s disappearance in its very first arrival. Did those two snowflakes just melt together? Was it just the wind blowing the snow off the branches, or is the snow getting warm and heavy? Could that be the sun peeking out? You can’t step away from the thermometer – making the connection to fretting over a sick child all the more tangible.

Then, like a mad hoarder, you begin to worry that there isn’t enough snow for everyone. You are jealous of patches of pristine snow, hating the next pedestrian, bird or falling leaf for the possibility that they will besmirch it. You jump between an impulse to run through that clean snow – burn the bridges behind you, not leave anything for your enemies – and an almost reverential avoidance, as if you can soothe the snow into remaining untouched. But it’s no use. Nothing remains pristine for too long – and the puny winter storm begins to seem so disappointingly small. However cold, however snowy, it’s never enough.

And at the same time, your mind is filled with fantasies of greatness. You think back on other years, other snows – does this have a chance of beating them? What if the snow stays for two weeks, three weeks? Through Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s day. Like when you were a kid and you let the water run from a spout outside and you saw it flow down the hill. You saw the stream advancing, getting bigger, and your thoughts went to starting a new river. Maybe you dreamt of an article in the newspaper: “Local child starts new river by keeping a waterspout open for long time”. Same here – you want your little winter to make it, your local snowstorm to be recognised by higher authorities. “Seattle stuck under 15 feet of snow for third straight week”. That’ll show the midwesterners. But, being honest with yourself, you know this can’t be. It’s just that it’s a winter so tenuous, so fragile, you can’t help cheering it on. You want the snow to stay a little longer, the pond to freeze a little deeper, the traffic to move a little slower. Perhaps you miss something by not having a real winter. But you also get something in return.

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