Old Man Winter
Originally published in the March 1980 issue of Senior Edition newspaper
The turning from winter to summer in Colorado is made ever more abrupt by the – for all practical purposes – virtual elimination of spring. As someone observed to me of late, spring in Colorado actually comes for about two weeks in February, only to be frozen back into submission by Old Man Winter, full of frigid fury after pausing to catch a wintry breath.
March 21 here is only observed as a quaint, calendrical peculiarity. By the time March 21 arrives, spring generally has come and gone, leaving little trace but a few embarrassed shivering buds of winter.
Then with spring duly subdued, winter melts into summer, inclining us seasonal purists to suspect that spring in Colorado is but the figment of some demented poet’s immoderate imaginings.
Not later than one week after winter’s final (a prediction which may yet prove premature) fiery blast, a young lady of my acquaintance had the audacity to complain about the heat. While her observation technically had merit, my temptation at that moment was to send her on an extended tour of the last ice age – where she might shiver to her heart’s content – leaving the rest of us to bask obliviously in this delicious summer perfection.
Now, I must admit that winter is not without its sublimities. Denver’s first seasonal snowfall fashions an unblemished illusion, concealing bare trees and cement sidewalks in a whispering whiteness, suspending for a moment our belief in the earth’s unyielding solitude. The illusion is brief. Soon it turns to sludge and brown ice. Slippery sidewalks and frozen fingertips. Grasping at icicles, we crave the fervent summer sun.
And, I grant, there is nothing quite like Colorado’s winter/summer, those indescribably pure days high in the Rocky Mountains when you can cross country ski upon freshly fallen snow beneath crystal skies, attired for a day at the beach beneath the blazing summer sun.
Twixt its auspicious advent and exhilarating decline, however, winter has little to recommend itself in its almost interminable interim. I attended college in upper state New York, whose winters make Denver’s seem almost tropical by comparison. Frozen into my memory of those times was the struggle to cross the quad to the commons, slipping drunkenly on iced walkways, blundering against the unremitting frigid wind, often succumbing without supper. Ezra Pound, who attended my alma mater for barely a year before his good sense got the ahold of him, penned these lines to vent his unrepentant rage at winter’s icy indifference.
Winter is icumen in
Lhude sing Goddamn,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramn!
I am getting carried away. How could any sane, reasonable human being (does anyone doubt that I am one?) waste a beautiful spring/summer day penning bitter recriminations against the waning cold of winter? Let this, then, be my swan song to Old Man Winter.
Thank God it’s summer.