One must have a mind of winter

I know that only animistic primitives think the weather has intention and all right thinking folk know that it is nothing more than a huge and indifferent complex of random forces. If you go outside and it’s -8C halfway through March and there is fresh snow falling onto the hard black ice, well, that’s the weather for you: it doesn’t mean anything.

But no!

Winter in Russia is simply evil, consciously cruel, and revels in her mockery of mere mortals. I say “her” because they use a feminine noun: “Zima”, and women here are called things like “Nina, Dina, Zina” or “Hiroshima” (I may be mistaken about one of those, but the point stands.)

She comes in each year, slinkily emerging from Autumn’s mellow fruitfulness, fluttering her eyelashes with that first, fresh snowfall and challenging you to start writing poems called: “first snow” and to imagine log fires burning brightly in quaint wooden homes. You know it’s all bullshit, you live in a concrete box in a city of three trillion million people and none of them will smile for the next six months unless they are drunk or mentally ill. You know she’s going to destroy your shoes as the city authorities fight her by spraying noxious chemicals all over the streets. You know all this, but it doesn’t help.

By January she has dumped you, broken your heart into a million little pieces. She gives you days of impossible beauty, glittering sunshine and silver dust dancing in the light. Days when your kids say: Papa, let’s go for a walk.” Then spend the next two hours demanding that you find a warm café. And then by February she has just resorted to punching you in the kidneys every ten seconds.

Then, when you are weeping like an orphaned child living in a drain she starts her flirting all over again. She gives you a warm almost spring like day; she sends huge blocks of melting ice plunging from the roofs of buildings so that you imagine you might die happy, smiling as your skull is hammered into your rib cage. And then she laughs, like Michael Sheen in that vampire movie before taking you back into -15C and ice as hard as steel. Or she buries you under snow for the whole of March and April. And she will do this as many times as it takes to remind you that hope is for cretins, as many times as it requires to break you, crush you, to teach you that despair is the only wisdom and that death will be a merciful release.

 

 

The Snow Man (by Wallace Stevens)

 

One must have a mind of winter 
To regard the frost and the boughs 
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time 
o behold the junipers shagged with ice, 
he spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think 
Of any misery in the sound of the wind, 
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land 
Full of the same wind 
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow, 
And, nothing himself, beholds 
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.