Friday, March 7, 2008
Weather that touches me.
"I can't bear weather that touches me," says Isabelle, one of the protagonists of Gilbert Adair's 2004 novel The Dreamers.
Big weather has arrived in Cincinnati today: a few inches of snow on the ground already, with the promise of upwards of ten by midday tomorrow. I've long hated precipitation of all sorts -- weather that touches me. I know there are people who find walks in the rain romantic; I think only of wet hair and fogged eyeglasses. I try to trace my hatred of snow, rain, sleet, and ice, and think of my car crash of fifteen years ago, when an 18-wheeler slid on the icy surface of Fort Washington Way and bashed in the side of my little red Ford Escort. He didn't stop, and as I skidded to a halt against the median, I watched his tail-lights recede as he raced toward I-75 and felt a helplessness I'd never experienced. One of my colleagues at Procter and Gamble saw the accident, followed the truck, took down his license plate number. Months of phone calls with police and insurance adjustors followed. I often think I could have gotten rich from a lawsuit, had I been so inclined, but in those days I was not. What I remember most is the cop who said, smiling, that had I been going any faster the impact would have flipped my car over the median into oncoming traffic. My body remembers this too: when I get behind the wheel in snow and ice, my arms and shoulders tense, my stomach sinks. Best to stay in, as today. Oddly, my first memory, I think, is of snow: my mother is carrying me out the front door of our house in Georgia, towards the car in the driveway. Snow -- rare for Atlanta -- is falling, and just beginning to stick to the grass.
One of my favorite horror movies is Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. I've seen it countless times, and it still terrifies me, not because of the creepiness of the Overlook Hotel, or Jack Nicholson's craziness, or Shelley Duvall's pop-eyed stare, or Danny Lloyd talking to his finger. It's the snow, piling up outside the hotel, sealing them in. I understand that claustrophobia, that itching and twitching, that need to feel as though one could get up and leave if one wanted to.
But today I find the snow strangely comforting. Of course, one of the joys of academia is that colleges, unlike other businesses, actually close in the event of inclement weather. I remember one of the last times Cincinnati received a snowfall like today's, in 1996 or 1997, I suppose. It drifted down my street in such a way that one whole side of my car was obscured. I was chewed out by my hateful manager at Fidelity Investments -- a real battleaxe, she was -- for not making it from Hyde Park to Blue Ash in fifteen inches of snow, while she had driven from Dayton to Cincinnati with virtually no problem. This was not a woman who appreciated psychological weakness: when I tried to tell her about my car crash, she told me to "get a grip."
It's still falling as I write. I've spent considerable time today watching it, safely, from this side of the glass. Perhaps that's the reason I decided to begin this blog today. For there is something in the looking out that enables the looking in.