Wednesday, January 28, 2009

my life sometimes borders on the frantically busy, what with teaching too many hours, and having kids at home and lots of pressure, my wife writing a book and all, and things happening left and right. so when i actually get to drive somewhere, i turn on a miriam makeba cd that i got for christmas, all of her best, it seems, and it lifts me, no matter how often i've heard it. and, we got a snow day, not just one (today) but another tomorrow, it seems, really they're ice days, the town is glazed over, and everyone's afraid to go anywhere. we were out of milk today and at about noon i decided to go for some, but got about 100 feet before i realized our own street, unplowed, would be the worst part of the trip, and any uphill would be completely out of the question. a pure ice/snow mixture spun under my tires as i tried to get to the main road which would be better plowed and salted.

when i drive around i try my best to contain myself, stay in the speed limit, look at something i've seen maybe a million times, and not get bored. today, it was all covered with ice and snow, which was different, and it was still coming down in the form of sleet, making visibility out the window even less. the town was relatively empty, everyone staying home & following the radio's orders, don't go out unless necessary. you gotta have milk though, i thought, and plowed on. it reminded me of a time i was living in iowa, out toward wellman, and had a friend near kalona who lived a bit wilder life than i did, she was pregnant, and when a blizzard came she'd get friends to bring stuff out and stay a few days. but on one particular blizzard she was alone and out of milk, and i agreed to take her to get some, but we couldn't take the hill right near her house, had to go around, on a long windy road that curved through amish country by a house with a pink porch. it was right near this house that my volkswagen went into a skid on the icy snow, and headed straight toward a horse and buggy that was coming right toward us with an amish family in it. the brakes of course were useless; we were on ice. finally at the last second, i steered away, and the car slammed into a snowbank maybe seven feet high; white snow now surrounded all four windows, but we were all miraculously ok; it was a very soft landing. the amish family was ok too, just a bit shaken, but there was no way to call for a tow, since nobody had phones for miles.

why am i thinking of this now? don't know, though at my window, the sleet continues; the neighborhood is white; we're not going anywhere. today, i came home with the milk; my own street was again the worst, almost left my car on it; but, i was home, basically, i'd made it; i could walk the milk home if i had to. the whole thing is a kind of forced, contained, family vacation; snow white and cold, no traffic, just us, hanging around the house, playing football in the snow or even baseball, sliding in the slippery ice. our pants were wet, and, caught unprepared, we had no hot cocoa. i'd forgotten; at the store i could have bought anything, but was in kind of a hurry to get home.

they say front-wheel drive is supposed to deal with this stuff better, but when i got back to my own street i noticed that it wasn't helping, i was spinning my wheels a lot, yet i could go backwards ok, maybe because reverse is a lower gear. similarly, later in the afternoon, i was sitting in my chair, and the mail truck came by; he was maybe the only other car that had braved the street in the entire day. but he was going backwards. apparently he'd reached the same conclusion; reverse was easier, and at least it worked. didn't see a snowplow or another car all day.

i have tons of work, not only homework, but frantic catching up on the usual semester, two classes, busy schedule, etc. etc. but instead, i set it all down, and sat a lot, drank a lot of coffee, and watched the sleet. kahwuleza, i sang to myself, which is zulu for "run and hide," maybe, or something, i'm not sure. i'm grateful, really, for the soft landing, a house that is maybe very cold and drafty in its unfinished barnlike upstairs, but downstairs, windows, couch, cats tearing around with a bit of cabin fever, kids who are all, of course, out of school and a little bored. you can't make a snowman; it's pretty much ice. no, we won't have hot cocoa until we go out again, and that won't be right away. not much music, either, except what's left in my head, even now late at night, though i will say this: sleet makes a steady little pitter-patter, which, like tires on crunchy ice-snow, is a sound entirely unique to the season, you only hear it once in a while. if you hear those sounds, you can turn off the music; like sounds of ice falling on ice, or wind chimes. it's hard to hear when you're yelling at the kids for tearing each other's hair out. but maybe, that's when you need to hear it the most.

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