"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

07 February 2011


My grandmother has been gone seven years now. By late mourning, I'd pulled out the compilation of swing music she gave me, paying special attention to Bunny Bergman's interpretation of I Can't Get Started. This little memorandum served to remind me of a simple and inescapable fact; she's still dead and I still miss her.

By now, she'd have been eighty-eight. Given how my great grandmother, her mother, had slipped into elderly madness somewhere around eighty-three or eighty-four, I cannot help but wonder if my grandmother would've suffered a similar fate. Of course, that is one of those mysteries I'll never be able to solve and I must accept it. Sometimes, I do a better job of that than others.

Upon waking, starting mourning tea, and letting the hounds out, I was greeted by snow. Soft flurry flakes, which danced upon the air currents like fireflies of frozen water. It was fascinating to watch, I do confess, but part of me did chuckle ruefully at a perceived meteorological irony. See, it snowed quite a bit whilst my grandmother was dying. Mostly, on the really bad days. It snowed the day of her funeral.

Of course, it snowed a fair amount when my mother was dying too. In fact, that day I was off on walkabout before my mother died, we'd dealt with a whiteout at one point. As I recall, it snowed a few times around my great grandmother's death, twenty-five years ago now. My grandfather, who died three days before the Christmas of my ninth year, had an aneurysm, which dropped him quickly on the steps of the courthouse he served as commissioner at in soft fluffy snow. It was snowing the day I got the news the bruja's shell joined her ghost in bardo.

The common thread to all this is not so much the snow, but the fact these deaths all occurred during winter. It happens to snow during the winter. Even and especially in this part of the world. Sometimes, to the degree you might find yourself wondering whether or not we are standing upon the precipice of another ice age.

For awhile, I rather hated the snow. You can spare pointing out I live the wrong geographic region if I dislike snow, because I've heard it too many times to count without removing articles of clothing. From that period my grandmother was dying to two and half years later, I would blame my ire toward snow on her death. Certainly, it made that particular form of precipitation less than enjoyable, even of it was just an effigy.

Truth be told, I think I lost that child-like exuberance for snow once I had to actually drive in it. Suddenly, snow days were not nearly as fun or exciting. In fact, since it seemed to become remedial day on the roadways, it became just plumb annoying. Most often, the most vicious of storms seemed to coincide with when I most wanted to go and do something. I know full well it was just roll of the bones chaos, but in a younger and more foolish frame of mind, I occasionally wondered if there wasn't some sort of meteorological conspiracy. It took me years to get past that little bit of self-importance.

I think it was in my mid-twenties that, as penance for getting older and having a twisted skeleton that sometimes seems to be held together by little more than bubblegum and bailing wire, which often creaks and groans like the foundation of an old, old house and brittle bone-dried black widow webs, the cold began to sometimes become painful. Oh, I know there are those who can and do hurt worse than me when the barometer shifts, but that's hardly a comfort when poison painkillers suddenly hold the same appeal as dark chocolate. When the first real snow of the season would come, I would grit my teeth against the pain I knew I'd be feeling in varying degrees for the next few months.

It was because I wouldn't move away, and don't think it wasn't suggested. The paradox being the fact I rather dig Colorado. It's been my home for all but three and a half years of my life. Winter, the cold, the snow, was just the price of admission, and all things for a price; it is only the cheap things can be purchased with folding paper and jingling coins.

There was also the fact my daughter was still here after her mother and split up, making it, to my mind, that I couldn't leave...

Sometime two and a half years after my grandmother died, the gypsy made a remark about things being wonderful once the snow started to fly. That was during a time of transition and for the first time since I was probably seventeen or eighteen, I found myself truly looking forward to the first flakes. That first snow, the pains I get in the joints of my twisted skeleton was not so bad.

Although things did not turn out as expected, that's okay. Wonderful things did end up occurring. I know, better than most, but not as well as some, that expectations can lead to disappointment. When one does not hold expectations, it does prevent disappointment, and, on occasion, one can find themselves pleasantly surprised. An aspect of the Tao of Chaos. Needless to say, it was a catharsis of which I still have a hard time finding the language to describe.  

When Sabina and I decided our Kashmir was up in the mountains, there was a fair amount of concern expressed at the fact it can be winter up here for nearly nine months. Friends and family knew I was not a fan of such things. The cold and snow can be painful. I reminded all of them of the nature of the deal. The price I was going to have to pay for Kashmir, for my place in the world, was long winters and a fair amount of snow. Perhaps it added to the growing supposition that I might have gone at least slightly mad in my decision to jump off the twilight end of the world, but I was at peace with it.

Oh, I still can get burned out on winter. Neither of us ski or snowboard, preferring to hike. Although, a snowshoe once or twice a season-at least-is fun. Just because I've made peace with the inevitability of winter does not mean the pains I sometimes feel within my twisted skeleton has suddenly, miraculously gone away. The novelty of shoveling out of drifts can wear off rather quickly no matter one's position of love or hate on the snow scale.

Still, I no longer curse the snow as an effigy of my grandmother's death. Although, part of me finds bittersweet humor when flakes fly on the anniversary of her death. It might be ironic, but I know it's not intentional. With a rueful smile and swing music playing as the backbeat, I raise my tea mug to the window. I'm toasting my grandmother's memory. I'm toasting the snow.


  1. This is beautiful. You have a wonderful turn or phrase - "Just because I've made peace with the inevitability of winter does not mean the pains I sometimes feel within my twisted skeleton has suddenly, miraculously gone away". Fab.

    I love the major key in the end paragraph.

  2. Beautifully written! I also loved this sentence: "Just because I've made peace with the inevitability of winter does not mean the pains I sometimes feel within my twisted skeleton has suddenly, miraculously gone away", it's somehow magical and calming at the same time.

    Really beautiful!

  3. Thanx. Thus far, that seems to be a popular line.

  4. I have struggled to comment on this. I have come back and re-read it numerous times.

    The first time, I got as far as "she's still dead and I still miss her." I couldn't go any further. I am half writing/painfully ignoring a post about grief and change. This made me cry.

    Later, I read the full post and admired your acceptance and your frank honesty about the decisions you made.

    Since then I have been back, just to listen to the words and how they play out. Your posts seem to suit being read aloud. Today, the final triumphant notes in the last few lines held me long after I'd stopped reading.

    It was a lovely post.

  5. Wow. I am both flattered and amazed that it had such an affect upon you. Sometimes, I think I give a little too much power to my memories of the dead. But the other side of that is I feel if I don't purge the words out, they'll fester, becoming toxins within my psyche, and infections, be it physical or of the mind, are not fun.

    Thank you, as always for your kind words.