Thursday, January 13, 2011
What is winter to a child of the tropics? A myth, a figment of my imagination?
Here I am, daughter of the sunshine state, listening to the boozy old school jazz pumping through the speakers in the starbucks overlooking downtown Jersey City and all of the piles of snow that have drifted and swirled and delicately poured forth from the weather gods in the sky. Winter here is real, and serious, just like the NYC summer - people die in NYC heat. Summer in NYC is real too, and more serious than any summer I ever experienced in my childhood on the shores of perfect blue-green 95 degree water.
In this harsh reality, that same blue-green water and baby powder sand haunts my dreams, and homesickness strikes at the most inopportune moments... like when I am posing for an art class, and I can feel the blush of warmth creep up and redden my body on the model stand, laid bare before an audience, and the brightness of tears standing out suddenly in my eyes. But that too seems now the stuff of dreams, something larger than life, like the tall tales of my childhood - memories of my life as told to me by the other people who experienced them, from when I was too young to remember.
Yet, it is sweetly exciting to walk through the gentle, friendly flakes, wet little kisses on my face. It is profound to look out at the street in the morning, and see the trash and cars, even the black, ugly asphalt given a new leash on life, the traces of man hidden by an perfect blanket of crystalline innocence. A cup of cocoa simply isn't as beautiful as it is during an intense snowfall, and nothing is more exciting than waking up and realizing that you are trapped, so work is out of the question. We are all children during a snow day, like playing hooky from responsibility. We inherently know the trouble that comes later, dealing with the plows, unburying cars and bikes, trudging through the gray sucking slush that finds its way into your shoes, no matter how prepared you thought you were. The gritty crunch and slip of the rock salt to melt the snow that melted, that refroze into treacherous pools of slick and sly ice. We know it will suck later. But however inconvenient it may become, it seems to have fallen with the best intentions, to baptize us new, to give us a fresh start.
I can't help being fascinated by this bizarre phenomenon of snow, like turning 21 and finding yourself surrounded by alcohol for the first time in your life - how could you say no to exploring its affects, and savoring the pros and cons?
Florida has a much different mood in the way of weather gods. There is no silly sweet magic in the air currents. Our rainfall may last a few minutes, but it falls in a flood of bitterness, every second as obscuring and wounded as a first love, before disappearing into a memory almost as soon as it started. My anger is often the same way, invisible till the moment my heart breaks, and suddenly everything is ok again. But I wouldn't call the malevolent mealstrom of the Hurricane as real as summer and winter in the north... it is such a massive and pregnant form, leaving a path of utter destruction. It is the stuff of gods and titans, and it is like a cosmic act of war. You don't hope for a hurricane day, you evacuate a week before its projected arrival, before it is impossible to escape on the clogged roads. You try to get as far inland as you can to avoid being swept up in floods along the coast. There is no hiding from something so massive and heartless. It isn's pretty. There is no way to protect yourself, or those you love.
All you can do is hope and pray it will be fickle in its path. That it will hit someone else, ruin other people's lives, not yours. That it won't make it to the warm blue-green waters of the gulf, the rich salty womb I swam in before I was born.
So I fortify myself against the icy wind. I rip off the blankets in the morning braced for the inevitable shock of cold. I step outside everyday with a 'fuck you' to the early morning chill. And I weigh my options.