For reasons I cannot fathom, the winters do not seem as harsh as they were when I was a boy. I can remember winters lasting much longer and the snowfalls being much heavier. Of course, global warming has a lot to do with this, but I also wonder how much of my own memories are false? Perhaps it’s true that when one is a child everything is bigger and grander. Perhaps one of the things we grow out of as we become older is a sense of vastness as the world becomes much smaller and spaces become much closer. Now that the blizzard of 2013 has now come and gone, I still think that the amount of snowfall we used to receive was much greater and more frequent.
I used the time form this blizzard to catch up on some of the books I have been meaning to read and re-read for quite a while. I once read that Susan Sontag read one book a day, and I have tried to copy that lifestyle, but to no avail. I have a life, I guess. I was able to read four or five books over the snowy weekend and nearly submerge myself into fictional landscapes completely, only emerging here and there to eat, wrestle with my kids, and check on the snow piling up outside.
One book I managed to read in one sitting was Alejandro Zambra’s magnificent Ways of Going Home. Zambra is a 38 year-old Chilean poet and literary critic whose writing style suggests a much older and seasoned writer. It’s not often that I get a chance to read a book in one sitting these days, but I was determined that if I was going to be snowed in, I was going to use the time to do something I never seem to have the time to do. Zambra’s book only took a few hours to read, but it proved to be a wonderful way to spend a snowed in afternoon. I immediately picked up another book once I had finished Zambra’s and moved into an entirely different world. I picked up Tolstoy and read a few of his shorter works, one of which was his “Master and Man” about a master and his servant who brave a blizzard so that the master is able to bid on a plot of land he’s had his eye on for some time. The story ends in tragedy, but a lesson is learned. I also re-read John Gardner’s Freddy’s Book, which is a neglected but wonderful novel published in 1980. I spent more time this reading concentrating on the significance of the second part of the novel, “King Gustav and the Devil,” written by Freddy—hence, “Freddy’s Book.” I read more, but the point is that my reading was all over the place that snowed in weekend and I felt as if I lived a thousand lives.
As I said, I used the time to throw myself into books, but much more interesting is what the other members of my family did. Almost everyone in the house except me was using some sort of electronic device. My son was using his iPod to listen to music, my daughter was alternating from her Leap Pad to her iPod, and my wife was using her Nook. I was a bit dismayed by the fact that I was the only one in the house reading a traditional book, but perhaps I’m old fashioned. Since this is the twenty-first century, I should be happy that my family is so technologically advanced, right?
Perhaps best of all is how time seems to stop when one is snowed in. It’s a lot like being on a layover at some anonymous airport; there is a lot of waiting for “what’s next” and a lot of sitting around. Needless to say, as I kept looking out the window at the snow piling up, I was grateful for the free day. The following day we all ventured outside to play in the snow. I went from the white of the page to the white that covered the world.
And I was happy.