13 October 2008

The Lengthening Shadows

I suppose it's inconsiderate of me to disappear for a few weeks and then return with a pro forma political diatribe that offers not a word of explanation as to where I've been or why I seem to have deserted the world of electronic letters.

Yes, well, I have no explanation apart from alienation or sheer laziness or a crisis of the spirit or, erm, sheer laziness. Every day I think all sorts of thoughts, often taking the trouble to craft them into eloquent or at least elegant sentences that cause me to think, "Now that would be an excellent topic for a blog post," only to reflect further that, "Oh, but it's late, I'm tired, I have to get up early in the morning, and besides, what do I have to say that hasn't already been said and won't get me laughed at?"

Unfortunately, the answers that the cosmos (aka the space between my ears) most frequently hurls back at me are "Yes" and "Nothing." So then I stomp around in an inarticulate snit, perhaps run a few laps around the track in McCarren Park (I'm up to three miles on a regular basis now in the unlikely event that you cared), and curse the gathering darkness.

By which I don't mean the economic and political Armageddons looming on the horizon, though they're sufficiently gloom-inspiring all by themselves, but rather the inexorable retreat of the sun toward the southern hemisphere and the shorter days and chillier nights that trail behind it. The corner of the park where I do t'ai chi, a location bathed in sunshine from May until September, will spend the next six months swathed in shadows cast by nearby buildings. The running track still gets sun over all but the southern quadrant, but that won't last much longer either. And soon the feeble bits of sun that manage to work their way through the winter murk won't even put a dent in the frigid winds howling down from the north.

It seems kind of stupid to be whining about the onset of winter at the moment; apart from a coldish spell that fell upon us in the first week of October, we've been enjoying some of the most beautiful weather imaginable these past several days. Even now, after midnight, my windows are all open and I could comfortably stroll out into the street wearing no more than a t-shirt and jeans. And this is supposed to carry on for most of the week to come.

But I'm not fooled; this interval of what used to be called Indian Summer (perhaps it still is; I'm just guessing that some identity politics crackpot or other would have put a stop to that usage by now) makes it all the more clear what lies ahead: three, four, maybe even five months of bundling up in heavy clothes and dashing as quickly as possible from doorway to subway and back again. No more time for leisurely street corner chats or lolling about in the park until three in the morning on one of those summer nights when eternity doesn't seem like such a very long time after all.

Autumn used to be my favorite season and October my favorite month, and not merely because it's my birthday month (if anything, the contrary, since I've a long history of not particularly successful birthdays). But something has changed, and now it's all about summer. The whole rest of the year seems to be about wishing it was summer, anticipating summer, or grieving summer's passing. Probably not the best way to live for someone who insists on dwelling this far north. But then what would New York be like if it had Miami's (or Honolulu's) climate? Very different, I'm guessing, and not necessarily in a good way.

Anyway, I've chosen to live here and it seems as though I should at least make a stab at embracing the nine months of the year that aren't summer, especially considering that at my age, three-month years tend to spin by rather quickly. And life seems to be looking up, despite rampant disaster in the economic sphere. I'm cautiously optimistic about the election, I've just found a new apartment down the block which is about a zillion (well, half zillion, anyway) times better than my current hovel, and at the end of the week I'm off to Paris to see the Zatopeks and Copyrights and celebrate my birthday.

Of course I'm a little concerned that if things continue to deteriorate at the rate they've been, I could find myself overseas the day they close down all the banks and declare our currency worthless, and thus end my days as a vieux clochard in one of the less renowned arrondissements.

Last week my niece Gabrielle Bell and I went to see Alice Munro speak, and it filled me with dreams of Ontario, the flat, nondescript and superficially uninviting southwest corner thereof where many of my ancestors inexplicably chose to settle, and where Munro, who could at this point live anywhere she wished to, continues to dwell. There was something very comforting in her flat, slightly clipped tones that evoked memories of a dozen or more aunts and cousins who displayed that same matter-of-fact devotion to simply getting on with it, a quality I see in Gabrielle herself when she tackles her drawing, even if she's barely ever set foot in Ontario.

I think she and I will make a pilgrimage up there someday soon, the only question being whether to do it now and risk the early onset of a Canadian winter, or wait till spring, which can be a pretty fickle and unreliable commodity in those parts. For me personally, I'd prefer to ramble across Ontario in the bleakness of November than the perennially false dawn of April, but that's probably just me being moody. I should get to bed. Big day of moving tomorrow.

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