Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Ice House Rant

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Cooperstown's first track meet of the season was: a. bitter; b. bit windy; c. dank; d. snowing! Of course it was snowing! How could it be anything else? It's merely April 5th, and we're never safe from large amounts of snow until May 26th (a date subject to change, depending on the weather...)

Questions that want answering, 
some of them vaguely literary.

How did it first come over the Coopers and other Yankees that it might be nice to live beside a beautiful but frozen lake and obtain their winter exercise by shivering?

Were these Yankees simply excessively stubborn and stalwart (and stupendously s-alliterative, like this stupid question), or were they simply in love with the landscape (which was splendiferous until the strip mall came in at the Commons?) Or was it something else entirely, not beginning with "s" at all? (Judge Cooper's patent, perhaps?)

Did the early settlers think it was profoundly weird to keep their deceased beloved's body in the ice house or wood shed all winter and then have to wait till June when the ground was thawed enough to dig a grave with pickaxes? Hmm. Might have to write something about the body in the ice house.

Why did "Real Feel" have to be 20 degrees lower than the thermometer this morning? (I'm going to quit looking at accuweather. It's too dratted depressing.) Why can't it be above for a change?

Why did James Fenimore Cooper come back from Europe? No wonder he ran off! He wanted warmth and culture and probably a corner café. There were probably very few Cooperstown corners in his time. And even fewer cafés. No Chingachgook Café. No Pathfinder Pizza. No Hawkeye Bar. No Last-of-the-Mohicans Restaurant. When he came back, he tried to drag Europe with him, as when he turned Christ Church into a Gothic treasure box. But the villagers were already terribly American. They'd taken over his favorite lakeside beach--his very own, with a family deed and everything--and wouldn't give it back. We the people still have it today!

You know what I'm tired of? Starts with an "l." Almost ends with "brr." Layers. Bonus question: You know what else I'm tired of doing? Shoveling ash.

Appropriately, the youngest and I are going to see Frozen. 

I live in a perfectly beautiful village that has no agonizing problems and am privileged to have enough to eat and central heating. But I still can't bend my mind around the idea that people lived in my house in 1808 and were cold. Very cold. Frozen, and with nothing of Disney about it at all.

12 comments:

  1. And -- as I have often pondered -- how on earth (no pun intended) did native Americans survive the harsh winters in such primitive clothing and shelters? European immigrants had made some progress because of tools and technology. Native Americans? Not so much.

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    1. My husband was recently in the Kyrgyzstan Himalayas; coming upon a group of wandering Kyrgi people, he was surprised to see them simply squat down when a wild snowstorm blew in. They would simply stay in that posture until it blew over... And none of the people he met had proper winter coats but simply wore cheap synthetic jackets--a sort of windbreaker.

      I think some native American structures were somewhat warm (as, bark houses), if smoky. But not by our standards. People do acclimatize to their settings to some degree--as, they say it takes about four years to adjust to moving to a much warmer or colder setting.

      I've seen one of my sons go coatless and then remove his shirt when it was near zero fahrenheit--just got hot! Maybe that was his one-sixteenth Akwesasne Mohawk blood?

      Probably anyone can adjust to some degree. Often I see teenage boys wearing nothing but shorts and shirt and maybe a hoodie in winter here, where it's often below zero.

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  2. Reading between the lines and noting the subtleties of language you have employed, I have detected a distinct hint about Cooperstown being a little chilly at the moment? Yes?
    Just let the thought of Minnesota warm your toes. Or Canada, perhaps?

    I do know that although winters are much colder here in northern America I was always much colder in the UK. Here the air is dry and I too will broach the winter air in t-shirts (and bare feet in the snow often enough).
    Metabolism, I think.
    On the other hand - you will function perfectly and be very happy in the upper 90's F. No? Many northern americans wilt in that!

    Take that thought and put it somewhere until it thaws and then look at that!

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    1. I do remember it being 126F in Death Valley, and that was fairly unpleasant. Generally I like being hot, although 15 years in a row up here has spoiled me for the really hot days. I seem to spend the hottest time of the year in the South, coldest in the No'th. Evidently I am a woman of extremes!

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  3. Your post has just reminded me that last night I dreamed I was walking barefoot in the snow. And was not cold! And I am the most frozen person ever--I wear gloves if it's below 60 degrees. Thank you for prompting the return of a tiny sliver of my unconscious self.

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    1. Being able to walk barefoot in the snow and not be cold does sound delicious. All those lovely crystals under your feet...

      I peeked and it turns out that lots of sites talk about dreams of walking in the snow barefoot. Not that I'm planning on believing them... You probably know better than they what that might be saying.

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    2. Now I'm going to have to look up the meaning. I do hope it's nothing embarrassing--(*goes to look*) Bleah! Even worse, it's all tragic and miserable. I deny it utterly. I like being barefoot.

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    3. I like how you think. I like being barefoot too. It's just that Yankee weather is against bare feet. Another reason to go south!

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  4. As for me, I am thoroughly spoiled by Southern California weather, which is almost always pleasant.
    Of course, there's the occasional earthquake and forest fire... but nothing is perfect.

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    1. You must pay for your pleasures, I suppose.

      A very energetic and fruitful earth does seem to toss off a fair number of tornados, tsunamis, and other unpleasant signs of vigor.

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  5. I must say, the whole time I lived in Yankee country, I marveled that anyone equipped with an ocean-going ship would ever have said to himself, "Oh, *this* would be a good place to stop!"

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    1. Exactly. It's beautiful (where it hasn't been ruined) but daunting. Makes you grasp why Mistress Dorothy Bradford drowned after the Mayflower set anchor. Poor young woman, a world away from her little boy back in Europe...

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.