It’s the 13th of March, and it’s snowing. The snow started at 1:00 am. The forecast says it will stop around dark. I’ll be ready. The weather forecast on my phone calls for 2 more days of snow next week. Imagine that I had a date with a new garden hand to start pulling bittersweet and digging multiflora rose out of the meadow tomorrow.
To while away this unseasonable snow storm, I’ve been reading Weatherland: Writers and Artists Under English Skies. I just reached a section called “A Pause: On Freezeland Street” where the pages turned a light blue. It starts: “Sometimes, in deep winter, life seems to pause. Snow falls silently, and it muffles the usual sounds.”
This is not quite my situation as a northwest wind has been blowing tree detritus against the northern windows making a jarring clatter. And snow plows have been up and down the street way too frequently for the volume of traffic (none). I looked up from the dining room table to see a crew member of a National Grid climbing over the front wall. He was checking my meter to see whether I had power. Apparently at least some of my neighbors are without.
Back in my reading nook with Weatherland, the author, Alexandra Harris, is about to describe several Frost Fairs on the Thames from the 1600s till 1814. The many piers of the Old London Bridge impeded the river’s flow creating “a very pavement of glass” supporting an alternative world on the ice. Harris writes that visitors came in the thousands. Booths were set up in double rows from Temple Stairs to the South Bank. Since I’m about to be right there next month, this “pause” in the Weatherland tale is particularly compelling.
In 1684, poet-playwright John Dryden started work on the libretto for an opera, King Arthur, by Henry Purcell that according to Harris “would contain one of the most brilliant renderings of frost in musical history.” You can hear a modern interpretation of “The Chorus of Cold People” here. The stuttering staccato mimics their shivering, writes Harris. (Purcell’s version is here.)
I have missed most of the storms in Rhode Island this winter. I have not lost power. i should not complain. But I saw a pair of mourning doves huddled together on the back of a wrought iron chair under the enclosed but not screened section of the porch. They were whispering “we’ve had it” to one another. I’d concur.