The Bear Came Over The Mountain 3.9.07

Across the valley I can see stars emerging from this long and overcast day. Contrary to everyone’s worst predictions of sweltering afternoons and a globally toasty future, we have, instead, a customarily frigid March. It came in like the MGM lion roaring over Al Gore’s independent and Inconvenient Truth. Those of us willing to be swept away by the hysteria of certain doom now stand here with frozen egg on our faces shivering in our Rumsfeldian conviction that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

I know, I know…we mustn’t miss the point. It doesn’t need to be hot every day, just on average. I read Mother Jones, too. I get it. Nevertheless, as winter drags on in New Hampshire, I wonder when the warming will start. I yearn for hell fires to melt away my icy discontent. Perhaps it will get worse before it gets better. I hear that happens, too.

The literal truth of this is not to be trivialized. Evidently, when the winter is in its last couple months it seems much worse. (Here I draw facile parallels to the political winter we’ve endured for too long: now that the demi-Republicans are whispering that the war must end, we’re all supposed breathe easier and look forward to a springtime of change. But to me it seems so much worse - now that everyone knows. I mean, the public mandate’s clear but still no one’s doing what should be done, to wit, slapping that miserable idiot’s face and sending him to Siberia. And even though villains are now in plain sight, we stand here frozen like the victims of some funny freezing bad guy in a farcical Batman cartoon. The truth of the matter is decidedly chilling. )

One might surmise that by now I’d be used to it, bundled up as I am in my woolen scarf and moose-plaid Elmer Fudd hat. But one would be wrong: when I see the sheep huddled in their hay, their sad, sour faces turned away from the sub-zero landscape, and the donkey wheezing in dismay, I feel more culpable for this global calamity than any CFC-spewing Styrofoam factory. Surely their misery, hot or cold, is my fault and its mitigation my responsibility.

(So where was I when protestors were marching in Washington? I was probably curled up in a blanket watching recent episodes of sweaty beachbound survivors. Or maybe I was shoveling snow off my porch and path and watching the sky for a next storm. Like everyone else, I could have been putting grit down in front of my own back door and letting the public plows deal with the narrowing street. Go figure.)

In protest the chickens have stopped laying. Their energy-hungry water-heater, which I bought just a month ago, already has quit working. The hens are living on snow and whatever else I bring them for chicken feed. Another farmer recommended this regimen while he squinted and speculated that snow is what foul might drink in the wild when the thermometer drops below freezing. My chickens would sooner rent a ranch in Crawford than wander in the wild in winter and they, too, blame me for the cold, I’m sure. “We have a deal, “ I remind them, “I feed you and you feed me.” They turn a deaf ear.

Obviously, none of my animals like the white stuff. They stand at the barn door and look balefully across the paddock, refusing to leave their cozy cubbies. Not a single hoof or foul footprint defaces the frozen, fenced-in wonderland but one has still to wonder if any of them remembers spring or has an unshakeable faith that this season will pass. One could wonder the same about me.

But there across the valley two stars have come out of the dark, somewhere over the mountains. I scratch my head and wonder what stars these are since they’re as bright as the headlights of the wide Walpole plow making its way towards my house in a December blizzard. Unless I’m mistaken these are the stars we only see in springtime. Ursa Major is waking from her winter hibernation and warmer weather cannot be far behind. Repeating this to myself, I turn my collar up and shuffle in my winter boots towards the kitchen.