falling faintly and faintly falling

It’s snowing.

These days, with the warming of North Carolina and the rest of the globe, we don’t see snow very often.

So tonight, when the rain changed over, Facebook statuses began to buzz with sightings of snow.

My friend Robert Jones says it’s snowing as he drives down West Bank Street.

Cindi Graham responds, reporting that Statesville Boulevard is covered in white.

I notice that a couple of hours earlier, the Salisbury Post asks Facebookers if they’ve seen any snow.

Yes, they had. Everywhere. On Fulton Street. In China Grove. In Rockwell, Granite Quarry, and Spencer.

Snow was general all over Rowan County.

All this is just to say that I love snow, and I love to be reminded of the one of the most famous and most beautiful passages in all of literature, the last paragraph of James Joyce’s “The Dead.”

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, on the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

…falling faintly…faintly falling…

Snow, as it falls, is so beautiful.   I always think of this:

“Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

the final, most beautiful passage from “The Dead.”  James Joyce

John Huston’s The Dead – Finale (YouTube)

But when the loveliness gives ways to freezing rain and slick footing, I’m thinking different things.

Monday’s snow has almost completely melted, but you could still ice skate in our front yard now (Sunday afternoon).  We have a lot of trees.

front yard
front yard, Sunday afternoon

In fact, my fireplace hasn’t seen a lot of action in the past couple of days.  My little trek to the woodpile is rather dicey.  Rather slick.

In the past two years, I’ve had two good falls on ice.

One was last winter, when I fell down six concrete stairs while taking out the garbage.  There was a lot of snow on the ground then, and I didn’t get hurt.

the stairs I went down on my back

The second was this Monday, as the snow began to fall.  I took a walk, enjoying the beauty, and fell flat on my back.

I associate falling on ice with skiing, sledding, and getting a day off school — fun things I enjoyed when I was younger and smaller.

After blogging about this earlier in the week — trying to be funny — two of my Facebook friends reminded me that falling as an adult is not always that funny.

Glenda Dyson said she broke her tail bone a few years ago.

Joan Palmer said she broke her wrist last year.

It takes me two days to deliver Coffee News throughout Rowan County.  I began Thursday afternoon.  Walked on plenty of ice and kept my balance the whole time.

As I was leaving the house on Friday morning — a day that would involve much stepping on ice — my wife had just returned from walking the dog.  They had been gone awhile.

“Did you fall?” I asked.

“Just once,” she said.  “On my back.”

As the day progressed, I mentioned falling to a few other people, and almost all of them had, indeed, fallen.

Perhaps I possess a special intuition about who falls down.  Or perhaps a lot of people fell on all this ice.

Walking into a retail store, I met one of the employees at the door.  We exchanged pleasantries.  When he asked how I was doing, I said, “Fine.  Only fell once.”

“I fell,” he said.  “Taking out the garbage.”

When I delivered to the Ro-Med waiting room, I ran into one of my son’s friends from school (now all grown up).

“You okay?” I asked.

“I’m fine,” she said.  “Just here with Mom.  She fell.”

Then she pointed to her mother, sitting next to her and sporting a big red bump on her forehead.

A waiter warned me to be careful.  “It’s slick out there,” he said.

“I know,” I said.  “I fell once.”

“Me too,” he said.

So here I sit, beside the fireplace, with no fire.  Last night I slipped and slid my way to the woodpile.  I guess I’ll try it again now.  It’s a risk, but the warmth of the fire is worth the drama of walking on ice.

a name (flash fiction)

It was just an email.

He was watching a video on YouTube, one suggested for him by the algorithm. It was something he would like, according to his usage. And he did. It was a pretty girl trying on hats while talking about a snowstorm in Canada and why she never learned the difference between term and whole life insurance and why she never would. Dumb stuff, but funny.  The girl wore a low top and made funny faces.
He wondered who was there with her. Probably nobody. Just her and the laptop’s video camera. Yet, she could be awful funny in her room by herself with those hats, talking about what it’s like to be really hungry for green vegetables — especially green beans — with two feet of snow on the ground and no life insurance.

She probably had family there, in another room.  Maybe her mother.  She was young enough.  Maybe her children.  She was old enough.  YouTube must be her hobby.  She spends her days at work planning what funny stuff to do and then at night, she makes the videos.

Then it came, with a loud ding. He paused the video while she was changing hats and snapped to it and there it was.

It felt warm because the air in the room was cool and he breathed less of it now.

Nobody had ever called him a name like that before.

busting my ass

Just took a great walk this afternoon — getting in my 10k steps on a snowy day.

Before I left, I put several logs on the fire so that it would be simmering nicely upon return.

catawba snow
Catawba College, snow

I had already been outside a good bit, and my feet — covered by a pair of thin socks and damp tennis shoes — were wet and cold. So I transformed that situation by putting on two pair of thicker socks. All was good.

The snowflakes were large and steady, and it was all very beautiful.

I had the idea it would be nice to take a little detour, off the sidewalks, and onto a little road that goes through a section of woods — a particularly pretty street that I enjoy quite often.

Except in order to get there, I walked across the parking lot next to the Catawba College football stadium — and this is where I fell and busted my ass.

Luckily, I landed on the most padded part of my body. I noticed a bit of general pain from head to buttocks, but mostly I hurt my pride, not body.

After retrieving my hat and getting up, I headed home, feeling much like an old fool and thinking I would finished the remaining 3,000 steps in the mall.

However, before taking off my coat, I called the mall and nobody answered the phone.  A couple of inches of snow had rendered it closed.

In fact, many things are closed. The banks closed. I arranged to meet someone at the local coffee shop, and it was closed.

“Better get back on the horse,” I said to my wife — and I re-entered the snowy outside and finished my steps, sticking to the sidewalk.

A few thoughts:  When snow and ice is involved, stick to the sidewalk or road or path. Avoid parking lots. Walk while God is busy — during the most active part of the snowfall. Before the walk, bring in lots of wood.

I occurs to me that “busting one’s ass” can have two completely opposite meanings.

Working hard, studying hard, getting a lot done, creating something amazing.  When you “bust your ass” in order to do these things, it’s good.

But walking on a slick parking lot, going down, and actually busting your ass, is — momentarily, at least — more of a negative experience.

the most mundane blog ever

Built a fire this morning, using fairly big logs.

As I was bringing in the first log, I saw the first snowflake.  It was huge.  Then another.  And another.  A few minutes later, the flakes were smaller but there were a lot more of them.

Because I picked big logs, it took a few hours for the fire to really get going.  But it’s a long lasting fire and it’s giving off great heat now.

It was a tough decision, earlier today, while it snowed.  Did I want to sit in my office, where the windows gave me a beautiful view of the snowfall — or sit in my living room with the laptop, in front of the fire (with less view).

I did a little of both.  Then I went downtown.

Upon my return, my dog was sleeping on the couch, in front of the fire.

I made her move a couple of feet, so I could have the choice spot.

And now here I sit, with warm feet.  The fire to my right.  The dog to my left.

And I need to get up and go get some exercise — and don’t feel much like doing it.

Snow, a beautiful moon, and a hell of a bruise

I thought the snow might be gone before I had a chance to blog about it.

It’s not.

I did post a Facebook status update about my inelegant fall down the concrete stairs at the back of my house.  I must say that I’m quite touched at how many people commented with their concern.

It was a hell of a fall, and one of those lucky moments in life.

Where I fell -- the whole way!
where I fell (the whole way)

I didn’t hurt my back or crack my head.  The only damage is a bruise that might keep me from sleeping on my left side for a couple of weeks — but it could  just as easily have been an occasion for an ambulance.

I was taking out the garbage.  We had had grouper for dinner on Saturday night, and there were fish bones in there.  It needed to go out.

I should have put the bag on the porch and shoveled the snow first.  Instead, I fell down the stairs first — landing on the ground, on my back — and then shoveled the snow.

When I was a kid, and when I was a teacher (for 24 years), I lived for snow days.  I even liked ice days, as long as we didn’t lose power.  Anything for a day off school.

I wanted time to write.  If there was a forecast for snow, I would try to predict how much and how long we’d be out of school– and I’d start planning a project and watching the sky.  Nothing was more joyful than getting up on a snowy day and taking a cup of coffee into my office, seeing the beautiful white coating outside my windows, knowing I had time to work on my own work.

Now that I’m self-employed as a Coffee News publisher, and largely make my own schedule, it seems like work never stops. I still love the snow, but don’t get the same thrill of vacation.

Last night, I had lots of recycling to take to the curb.  Today is our pick-up day.  I didn’t know if the city would pick-up today or not (they didn’t).  My neighbors didn’t have any garbage, trash, or recycling in front of their houses.

But I missed last week, and we have a lot of recycling.  We print about 12,000 papers each week, and a couple thousand come back.  These add up, and I usually carry them out with a hand truck.  Not possible in the snow.

So I made several trips to the curb last night, trudging through snow in my tennis shoes.

I’m glad I did.

It was quite cold, extremely clear, with a full moon.  The street was spectacularly beautiful — bright enough catch with an iPhone.

The street in front of my house. The top light is the moon.
the big light on top is the moon

This morning, I took a little more recycling out — and took a few pictures in the morning sun.

And tonight, there’s still plenty of snow on the ground — a pretty good run for this part of the world.

Snowday = Lazyday

This dog is such a homebody.  She likes to go out.  Loves a walk.

But let there be a few inches of snow on the ground and she’s a hibernator!

In the past 24 hours, she’s been to the bushes once — very briefly.  The rest of the time, she’s been like this.

Maybe she learned it from me.

Jackie Mudpie
Jackie Mudpie

Shopping for kerosene on a winter night

Steve Huffman

by Steve Huffman

I bought a kerosene heater the other year and used it on rare occasions when I was living by myself and too tight to pay high gas bills.

I eventually ran out of clear kerosene and bought some of the red stuff at a gas station. I don’t think my heater liked it. It smoked when I tried the colored kerosene. Made a mess and as a result I hadn’t used the heater in a couple of years.

But with a winter storm and the threat of ice fast approaching, I drug the heater out of the garage Friday afternoon, set it on the deck  and fooled with it until it fired to life. Sure enough, the heater was still smoking.

I syphoned most of the red kerosene and let the rest burn itself out. Meg and I drove about a mile to the Country Cupboard to see what type kerosene they sold.

It was red, but a guy who was buying a couple of gallons told me that the Hess station on East Innes Street across from Wendy’s in Salisbury sold clear kerosene. So Meg and I drove over there.

The parking lot was packed. At first we couldn’t figure out what the excitement was. Then we realized: It was a clear kerosene shopping frenzy.

People were waiting in line to buy the stuff. One guy said the Hess station was the only place in town that sold the clear fuel.

Meg stood outside and talked to the other customers while I went inside to pre-pay (it was required) for my kerosene. There was a line of customers. I had to wait at least five minutes. The guy behind me said he was taking care of some of homeless people and needed kerosene to keep them warm Friday night.

I’ve long admired Meg because she has that rare ability to talk to people of virtually any socio-economic background. I realized as much again when I stepped from the Hess store and returned to the kerosene pump.

Meg was laughing and carrying on with a number of people who (how to put this politely?) probably don’t reside in Salisbury’s country club section.

One guy told her it was his birthday and pulled out a driver’s license as proof. He was glad it was snowing on his birthday, he said.

Meg wished him a happy birthday, then, noting he was born in 1962, said, “You’re just a young fellow.”

“I’m 48,” he replied, laughing. “I’m two years away from 50.”

Then he eyed Meg and asked where her husband was.

“I think he thought I was flirting with him,” she said.

I bought $15 worth of kerosene (the stuff was $3.50 a gallon), then we drove back to Spencer.

The adventure was fun, and we’re all set to stay warm should the power go out as a result of the storm.

Our mailbox: out with the old, in with the new

old mailbox
old mailbox

How long should a mailbox last?

Seems to me that it should last as long as the house — but ours didn’t.

This mailbox lasted 22 years.  I installed it when we first moved in our house, on Thanksgiving day, 1987.

It became a much weaker mailbox about ten years ago, when a car removed it after a light snow.

old and new, side by side

Somebody (obviously not much of a snow driver) had put on the brakes, slid off the road, hit our mailbox, and continued pushing it down the street another hundred yards or so.

the post, remove

We didn’t see it happen, but we found the mailbox at the bottom of the street, in the middle of the intersection.  The car’s tracks told the story.

I put it back in the ground, and for the past ten years or so, we’ve had a wobbly but functional mailbox.

I can’t remember when the numbers faded, but they haven’t been visible for many years.

Then, last week, my daughter — who got her drivers license a week ago — backed into it.  That pretty much broke it.

My wife propped it up for a few more days with rocks, barely — until I had time, over the weekend, to get a new mailbox.

Looks nice, eh?

I put it a few feet in from the driveway — so even a really bad, drunk driver — should be able to back out of our driveway without hitting it.

Our new mailbox.  A metaphor for…what?

Maybe we’ll get another 22 years out of this one.  I hope so.

our new mailbox