Saturday, February 23, 2008

Everything Emptying Into White

The winter solstice occured at around 7am EST, two days ago.

I love the solstice normally--I always know around when it is, because I always feel this deep, blissy peace--soothing winter quiet, somewhere beyond words.

This one has been harsh though. The Christmas season can magnify everything so, especially anything having to do with memories, sentiment, connection. So for whatever reason, I've spent the last few days haggard and grieving--a mess of lost connection.

But that is its own kind of sublime state.

My mother's house is in a protected little dish, a lowland marsh beside the river. The snow was falling, and gently drifting, as it does this time of years. We were a little surprised when my mother's sister, on her way to visit in transit to another sister, called from the road not sure if they were going to make it, her seasoned Vermonter husband said it was the worst conditions he'd ever seen.

They just made it, around 12:30pm. Less than an hour later, I went to the supermarket to pick up a few things. Total, utter whiteout. The supermarket was less than a mile away; I'd been going there for years, and I could not find it. Or the road, or anything much else at all.

My little mustang is white, in a white storm. Every left turn was an exercise in mild terror, lest oncoming traffic smash into me.

The snow was bright and sharp and scintillating everywhere, all around. And "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy" was playing on the radio.

All the old philosophers of the sublime: Plato and Burke and Kant--define it as condition almost of terror--the point where the pretty or the beautiful becomes dangerous, faced with a sensation or emotion or a vastness that forces us to realize our limitations.

Fairies are so often depicted as coy, pretty cartoon creatures, and we do not, as a culture, really remember how very dangerous they are, sugarplum or otherwise. The pretty little ballet (one of my favorites, actually), and the spinning shards of snow and the brightness--made all the more sublime by the very real possibility of it all ending in death and wreckage. I was picturing myself in a horrible car crash, while the bright snow and the sugar plum fairies shimmered on.

Possibly at the exact moment I was thinking this thought, and driving that drive, there was a 100-car pileup on the Interstate not two miles away from where I was: 14 jacknifed trucks, Chicago bound, 30 cars crashing into them one by one by inexorable one, and dozens of cluster wrecks within a few miles at about the same moment--the same moment, in fact, my aunt and uncle pulled off that very same exit and toward our house.

They just made it. And I decided to shop at the supermarket near home instead of the one that would have required the highway.

I made it home perfectly safely with my tonic, limes and oatmeal (cocktail supplies are a necessity in a blizzard, as is breakfast)--I found out about it only by watching the news later that evening.

Pretty whiteness, ragged anticipatory grief and loss, over the top crashes, and the shimmering danger of sugarplum fairies. Solstice 2008.

Have a merry one, everyone, or if not merry, than intense. And if not intense, than at least cozy.

Image by owlet2007, and taken from here: