Monday, February 13, 2012

Winter Gardening

Tuesday, February 14

Thirteen above this morning—a balmy start by comparison with the last several days. A good omen for St. Valentine's. But when I put Pip out on his leash, the air must've hit me the wrong way because it suddenly felt intolerable. So cold, so harsh, I didn't even want to look at the sky or eyeball the backyard or anything else outside. I just wanted to get back in as fast as I could. And when I got back inside, something inside me screamed out what I was feeling just then in every part of my being. "I've had it. Had it with the cold, the wind, the ice, the ice-covered driveway, the ice park over the backyard, the iced-over sidewalks, the iced-up car, my ice-nipped ears and toes and fingertips. And the heavy clothing. And the dry air. And the overheated rooms. Everything." Or words to that effect. 

But Kate was still asleep. I didn't want to wake her up. And besides, the feeling passed so quickly I was left musing upon the suddenness of its appearance, as if out of nowhere. Like the dream I'd had just a few hours earlier about the end of the semester. It was the last week of classes, or perhaps exam week, or the week after graduation. No one around. And I was wandering the hallways, looking for someone to talk to, to have coffee with. But all the offices were shut. And no signs of light or life were visible in the gaps between the office doors and the floor. I was standing alone in an empty hallway, in an empty building. Not an uncommon experience when school is out. And sometimes, in fact, a pleasurable image to contemplate, especially in the midst of a semester when the press of students and committees becomes unbearable. But in my dream last night, I felt desolate beyond belief, with a great heaving in my chest. An anguish so intense I was on the verge of tears. And then I awoke, shaking. And then it gradually came to me that I must have been grieving the prospect of my retirement. A strange twist, given the pleasure I've had this semester, on "phased-in retirement," teaching only one course with just a dozen students and a few auditors, who leave me almost completely free to write my daily reports and to contemplate the time when I'll be completely free to write, travel, and garden as I wish. I thought I'd adjusted to the chilly side of retirement just as I thought I'd adjusted to the harshness of winter, except, of course, for a few qualms now and then, like the ones I had a couple of weeks ago. But when all is said and done, it must be that I'm troubled by a long run of bitterly cold weather, no matter where it occurs—wide awake or in a dream, in an empty hallway or right outside the back door. This winter watch is getting closer to home than I imagined.

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