The thermometer was a cruel lottery official this week, pulling from the low end of the bucket and dropping the numbered ping pong balls into the slots each morning with a peculiar icy pop. A sound that told you to wear extra layers and get out early because the river was frozen and the bus departs sooner to cross the bridge in time for the train. And you didn’t win this time but stay tuned tomorrow because we’re drawing another number and we’re selling fifty-seven thousand tickets an hour today.
Even this comparatively mild winter takes it right out of you with week after week of the lows, and the ruts you carved in the fall turn solid. It’s cold enough to freeze your ruts. And it’s all you can do to look up from scraping the ice off the driveway to catch a glint of occasional sun off the hardpacked snow.
And it is at this time of the year that Tom Waits says:
Hell’s boilin' over
And heaven is full
We’re chained to the world
And we all gotta pull
And so we pull, and the wind off the river is cold and goes through your long johns like three hundred and fifty-five million needles, each claiming its own skin cell to freeze. Your feet take three hours to warm up and your will a little longer than that. The news, when you listen for it, is bleak – it sounds like it’s coming through a thin tube from a long way off, where the physics are different and the language is always one syllable removed from truth. You pause to wonder “is that about me?” and then you move on because the winter is telling you to pay the oil bill.
But. This week, your lottery number comes in. The payoff’s never what you hope — after the taxes levied by life and the five-way split with your colleagues, your share comes out to little more than the right to continue. But you’ll take it, and why not? Your jet stream is becoming more zonal – that is, more west to east – and your temperatures are going to rise. So here comes a thin sleet and a warming rain and yeah, there’ll be floods when the breaking ice jams in the narrow spots, but after the deluge the rivers will run.
The lion took a hard look at you and decided you were too scrawny to eat, and you can hear the lamb bleating in the distance. Go to him. Go to him and serve him.
With mint jelly, or with a mustard sauce if that’s your thing.