Forty two below. Snowdepth twenty inches.
Old Cars Never Die
I’m old and blind, they say.
Once, though, I sped the street
Prime and strong, proudly fleet.
Cradling limitless payloads in my bay.
I’m old and blind – I know.
They say I’m useless deadweight,
“You’re day is done, accept your fate.”
Well, then, perhaps it’s so.
But see me, please just once as before –
Not old and blind (though I may be),
Frozen here eternally;
But young and strong as once I was
As is my heart forevermore.
It was 42 and sunny when I woke up this morning. It was 42 and sunny when I went for a walk this afternoon. It is 42 tonight. Nobody bothers with the word “below” this time of year.
The sun was cheerful and bright amongst the treetops as I walked to school to see the big basketball games. It isn’t high enough to illuminate everything, but it is beautiful as it catches in the upper branches. I left early so I could do some photography. After all these years it is still very much in my blood.
I love this place. My neighbors enjoy baiting me with “cold” humor. “Oh, it sure is cold today!” with a twinkle in the eye (it’s 28 below and of course we both know it isn’t any sort of cold at all, and both know, too, they are hoping this rookie will shiver a bit and heartily agree). Not this rookie.
Or, “Heh, isn’t this a fine, warm day!” with those same laughing eyes (we both know a sunny 28 is indeed a nice warm day, and yes, we both know, too, they are hoping, still, that I’ll shiver a bit and heartily disagree). The eyes are the give away, always the eyes! Their eyes are filled with warmhearted, good-natured humor. Athabaskan humor is as good as it gets. But today there are no jokes, we are all in agreement. It is cold and everybody has taken it seriously; you can tell by their careful dress, masks pulled up over the face protecting all but the eyes. Of course, there is cold like today and then there is more cold; even my students can remember the winter it dropped into the 60’s for a week (and I’m not talking “above”).
Cold seeps and penetrates and paints itself thickly on the insides of doors and windows. I really feel very seasoned to the cold, but this strikes me oddly. There I stand in a comfortably warm room and the inside of the door is sheathed in frost, the hinges and threshold in ice. It doesn’t melt, it just exists as though it has adapted to the warmth, apparently as comfortable as me in its surroundings.
I passed a dozen people on the streets today, walking to and from the school. All on foot. No cars. Most village cars are not in what one would call “tip top condition,” and I expect most were balking at the cold today. One of my neighbors was heading back from town toward home. I didn’t know her, so I greeted her and introduced myself. Her name is Mary, and she woke this morning to find the temperature in her home had fallen to 42 degrees (above). Her heating oil had turned to slush, and she had hurried to the store for an additive that should unfreeze it. I asked if I could help her, but she told me she already had a friend stirring the tank, and all they needed now was the additive. The remarkable thing is that she would take the time to talk to a stranger when she had urgent matters to attend to. Gracious lady! I liked her very much.
I took the picture of the old truck this morning. I see it everyday, as it is just down the street from our home. I have always been intrigued by it, and the weather was fine for picture taking. I believe it is a Ford, but the year I don’t know. It has the look of antiquity, though, in its narrowness and round eyeless sockets. I’m guessing it is from the 40’s. If anybody out there knows, please post a comment and let me know. There are many, many old vehicles here; it’s just too costly to haul them out. I’ve been told that once upon a time somebody in the village received a grant to remove them, but you wouldn’t know it by the numbers that still inhabit our community.