25 February 2013

the snow this morning

The snow this morning, it glistened and glittered.

And have you ever thought about how so many words we associate with light and shining begin with that gl-? It's a guttural gulp for expressing something so airy and bright, but English is a funny language. I can say that because I once took a class on morphology—how we put words together—and my mind glowed with excitement when I learned this gl- thing.

It's a sound, a building block of language, that English speakers, mostly unwittingly, associate with light. Given a very unfamiliar word beginning in gl-, most of us, without thinking about it too much, would very likely define it along the lines of glisten, glitter, gleam, glint.

We would hear this unfamiliar word, and if we were from a certain part of the country and it was a certain time of the year, we might think about the snow glistening and glittering.

I did the morning. I had slept much later than normal, but I justified the skipped morning workout by saying to myself {s I lay a-bed}: You swam a mile yesterday. The distance stretched out in front of me, and I stretched my legs, resettling into my flannel sheets and down comforter.

Sometimes, you have to cut yourself some slack; I'm trying to learn this.

I took an extra-long walk this morning through the brisk February air, and I stopped and admired the snow. Sometimes, you have to do that.

19 February 2013

shows I would accept as Downton Abbey spin-offs

The third season on Downton Abbey ended on Sunday and along with it a...um, major plotline. I'm trying not to be too spoiler-y.

But seriously, if you haven't seen the episode by now, I have one question for you: Do you avoid all things on the Internet until you've watched each episode? HOW DO YOU DO THAT?!?! Sorry, that was two questions.

Also, on a scale of 1 to 10 {1 being "I think it's pronounced 'Downtown'" and 10 being "I once had a dream that I lived at Downton Abbey and when I woke up, I was depressed it wasn't true. Since that time, I've spoken in a British accent."}, I would put you at a -5 if you didn't make it a priority to watch the show on Sunday when it aired, preferably surrounded by British food, as I did.

There was a beef and barley soup and bacon-cheddar scones and a charlotte russe {"It would be a pity to miss such a good pudding." I really hope you know who I'm quoting there.} and a trifle and poundcake.

But I'm getting distracted with this thought of food: what I need to talk about now, post-Series 3, are shows that I would accept as Downton Abbey spin-offs. People should start making these immediately in order to fill the void between now and next January, when Downton returns to America {months after it returns to England}.

{I've heard it said that the British won't let Downton air at the same time in America as payback for that time we beat them in the Revolutionary War. And then again in the War of 1812.}

{But I've also heard it said that PBS is dragging its feet on making Downton air closer to its British run as payback for how most of us watch PBS only during the pledge drive when they're airing Anne of Green Gables. If we all started watching NewsHour with Jim Lehrer more often, they'd give us Downton sooner.}

{I should never be trusted with rumors. Or even rumours.}

Shows I Would Accept as Downton Abbey Spin-offs

Please, someone on the Internet, start making these right away.
  1. Mr. Carson: Baby Whisperer: 30 minutes of watching Carson hold babies and talk to them like they were grown-ups.
  2. My Work Wife: Carson and Mrs. Hughes flirt over ironing and giving sideways glances to young maids and out-of-line footmen.
  3. They're Gonna Make It After All: Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore take on the world as single women in search of love at all the wrong carnival booths. At the end of the opening credits, Mrs. Patmore throws her cook's hat in the air, a la Mary Tyler Moore. Mrs. Hughes throws her massive ring of keys, but the shot freezes just before she tries to catch them, misses, and they fall on her head.
  4. The Bachelorette: Daisy: She cooks, she goes on strike, she wears hats that look like muffins—and she flirts with all the wrong boys.
  5. Monarch of the Glen: A show set in Scotland about a wealthy family living in a...Oh, that's already been made? Right.
  6. How to Polish Silver and Look Surly While You're Doing It: This show is perfect for HGTV.
  7. Slo-mo Shots of Guys Playing Cricket: Helpful for the American audience wondering what the point of cricket is. When do we yell out, "Sticky wicket!"? That is my main question.
  8. Say Yes to the Sweater Vest: Companion show to "Slo-mo Shots of Guys Playing Cricket."
  9. Hair Secrets from a Lady's Maid: O'Brien teaches you how to make your hair stylish and flattering. But the thing is, she has to do it for you. She's clearly not good at teaching someone to style their own hair. You can see that over the last three seasons, she's gotten better at doing her own hair, but no one can forget those original sideburns. If you want to be stylish, you're also going to have to put up with her soap habits. Just an FYI.
  10. Have You Ever Seen Maggie Smith in Her Younger Days? This is really more of an idea I have for an entire cable channel. It would just play movies and TV shows of Maggie Smith before she was the zinger-filled Dowager. Every program would end with, "But, for real, did you see her cheekbones? And that red hair? And those legs?" The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie would air every day at tea time. Misguided passion and scones: what more can you want?

I have more ideas, but I just wanted to throw these out to get the ball rolling—and now you can, as Mosley would awkwardly put it, start "cherishing the ball."

{I think that now, by the way, is when we yell, "Sticky wicket!"}

11 February 2013

why snow is essential

The roads were not slick, and for that I was thankful. It was February, and it was snowing—had been snowing all night.

But I had a bridal shower to go to in Wisconsin, just an hour or so away, and I didn't know it at the time, but it was a bridal shower held at a retirement home. St. Catherine's Commons, the invitation said, and I pictured some sort of church fellowship hall when really, it was the dining room at St. Catherine's Assisted Living Center.

I didn't know it as I drove through the snow, but after an hour or so on the road, I would walk into St. Catherine's, right smack into a group of old men wearing sweater vests and cardigans. "Are you here for the shower?" several of them would ask at once. They would be gathered around the fireplace, crosswords and newspapers on their laps.

"Yes, I am. You must know where it is!"

"Oh, we do! It's right in here!" They would be a chorus of helpfulness—and concern about the state of the roads.

"We haven't been out, but the TV said it was bad. Where did you come from? Chicago! How was that? How was the expressway?"

I didn't know that the bridal shower would start with a recitation of road conditions, nor did I know that I would be one of only a few girls under the age of 35. I didn't know that several of the older women would have on sweaters with appliqued winter designs and that I would feel young and chic in my knee-high black boots.

I didn't know that that would be my afternoon; as I drove, I was more focused on the snow that was more of a flurry: a gray flurry, the kind of snow that people who say they love winter block from their memory every year. It is not the pretty snow.

Now, the snow that fell overnight: now, that was pretty, the kind of snow that would be in a movie. Big flakes, falling on a hushed town, white and clean and transforming even the most mundane objects—the telephone poles, say—into something poetic.

You see a telephone pole in a soft snow, and you will think: That is a beacon of communication, bringing comfort and familiarity into every home.

I had been one of the first people to walk in the snow that fell overnight, a benefit of owning a dog and of naturally being an early riser. It was just a couple of inches, but that is enough to cover the gray chunks, the icy blocks of salt and dirt that the snow from last week had become.

It is always a sad shock to me that what began so beautifully—snow from on high—so quickly becomes a dirty version of itself as our cars and snow plows, those modern conveniences, deal with the weather.

I sound like a Luddite yearning for less technology interfering with the simple ways of the world, but of course I'm thankful for my furnace and electricity keeping my apartment warm and light during dark winter nights.

Snow can make us feel torn: It creates this old-fashioned-looking world, and waking up to a couple of inches sets off this deep longing in some of us for a slower pace. Coffee by the fire, reading in the armchair, a stew on the stove.

Then we want to run to Target, though, and we expect that the roads should've been plowed, the snow should've been taken care of, and life should be ready to keep moving forward.

This is why snow is, for me as a Midwesterner, essential: it reminds us that we really don't know what to expect in a day. We could wake up to several inches, but by the time we go to bed again, it could've melted, seeping into the ground and making a mushy mess.

Or by the time we go to bed again, more snow could be falling.

Or there could be ice.

Or the winds could be gusting and threatening to whip off our scarves.

Or we could've spent a couple of hours driving through a gray snow that was made to be slush, all to spend a couple more hours at a retirement home for a bridal shower.

Snow reminds me that there is so much more to the day than I can see when my alarm first goes off and that, that is why I will always live in a place with snow.

06 February 2013

sharp and fragile, all at the same time

Hanging just outside my office window are icicles. A row of them, stalactites from the eave, pierce my view.

It all sound so poetic, but as I sit here, trying to focus on work, those icicles are a poetic distraction.

They're sharp and fragile, all at the same time, as many of us are, and as I feel today.

Those icicles, if they fall, can hurt you if they hit you.

But they can also shatter on the ground. They can also melt away. They can become nothing but a drip.

Those icicles are daggers, but they're beautiful in the winter sun.

They are sharp and fragile, all at the same time, and today, I needed a reminder that even if my tongue feels like a double-edged sword, that doesn't have to define my day.

There's always more to a day. Always.


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