Social and Political Commentary

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Thoughts while it 's snowing

... Is there any better time for thinking

by Jackie Wattenberg

“Snow has fallen snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter, long ago...”

— Christina Rossetti, English poet (1830-1894)

A lovely old madrigal, noting that snow had fallen long ago too. It fell almost all year long in my hometown, Buffalo. Yes, I was born in Buffalo, but I am not to blame for historic snowfall. It’s getting tiresome, boring, illegal!

And in some views — beautiful! From my second-story window lies an Impressionist painting ... layers of pale snow on the kitchen roof streaked with gold from the morning sun, a blue, blue sky above distant trees limned with white … soft, delicately charming. But at night it becomes Rembrandt — rich and shadowed … black, basket-shaped tree limbs against a layer of snow, then a streak of darkened trees before a broad sweep of snow, golden from some unseen lights, backed by a layer of darkness before distant deep red buildings with glowing lantern lights; another layer of dimmed snow atop these far buildings, then the distant woods that are “lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises …” — no, hours still to sleep.

Too bad for all of us living on streets snow-pushed to become narrow trails where only one car can go at a time, and piles of snow from shoveling are more than 6 feet high. I don’t want to talk about someone on my kitchen roof shoveling off 2 feet of snow so that I can feel safe cooking in my kitchen. So far so good, but lots of roofs have fallen, and huge apartment buildings have leaked here and there, keeping their tenants on edge. So much for a “Winter Wonderland”!

Our whole nation is being punished by winter storms, even Texas and Oklahoma — is California next? Relatives there say that the Los Angeles area is unusually windy with cold winds — will a snowstorm strike the sets at Universal Studios?

Parking around my house is obliterated, so friends can’t drop by — but the drivers from Green Street Pharmacy are courageously undeterred! Taxi drivers carp about snow-piled streets, but they’re constantly busy. My cat, Cinnamon, a happy camper outside in all seasons, glances out the door, grunts a low meooww! and sulks inside all day.

What of the homeless? I heard on the radio that some libraries are staying open all night to let the homeless stay in their warmth — good for the bookish! Shocking to realize that in our wealthy nation homelessness has increased 9 percent since 1997, about 3.5 million experiencing homelessness this past year, a third of them children. Joblessness was said to drop to an even 9 percent, but with more industries moving to China for lower wages and no concern for job losses in the homeland, how can we ever return to our glory days of security for workers who aren’t carpenters or plumbers — or bankers, members of Congress or Internet wizards?

Someone on National Public Radio said that these historic storms — the biggest ever! — could be punishment for ... something. Not taken seriously, but, well, what are we as a nation doing besides watching the amazing protests in Egypt? Obama’s taking longer than we’d expected in Afghanistan, coalition and Afghan losses add up every day, and little notice in our media. Iraq in sad, ungoverned shape, and George W. Bush’s soft reply about “any regrets” of his presidency: “I wish I’d had better information about the WMDs,” the reason for the war. But no questioning of him like that of Tony Blair in England. Our eighth war since World War II. General-President Eisenhower worried about this and tried to warn us about the “military-industrial-congressional complex.”

Many authors, like Andrew Bacevich of Boston University, are writing about this vast militarism, taking billions from humanitarian needs, as cited by Eisenhower so compassionately. Plenty of time to read and think about these things when not able to get to Shaw’s for a week or to classes at the Milano Senior Center, their big van moving only on big streets.

We can only hope that this will be the exceptional winter of our discontent and that spring will enter early, with roses and wisteria blooming in April. Time now to look out my window again at the poetic side of the stubborn, unrelenting, silent snow …

This article was previously published in the Melrose Free Press on February 24, 2011 and is reprinted here with their permission.

March 4, 2011

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