Mack Williams column: Cold crystal sky
Becoming tired of winter mall-walking, tired of feeling like a gerbil gone from wheel to less-cardio “straight track,” level as the carpenter’s ‘bubble,” I went back outside to walk, knowing at this late date that the cold couldn’t last for very long.
Not far into my journey, I experienced sinus pain; but that was as “vertical” as it went, since the brain, itself is incapable of feeling pain (some people’s hearts are incapable of feeling pain, but that’s something else entirely).
I was glad not to have forgotten my gloves, as on one day, causing extreme coldness in my fingers (reminding me why they’re called “extremities”).
My angora scarf said (figuratively) to me that the angora rabbit “Knows what it’s doing” when it comes to the business of staying warm. This statement isn’t “heartless;” because after making it’s contribution to human warmth (by way of being combed) the Angora rabbit lives on.
The Weather Channel had “beigely” warned about the wind; and the further I walked, the more the wind’s velocity seemed to increase.
I thought back to what one of the mall walkers said about walking in cold weather, warning that his doctor said when the temperature was below 40 degrees, the heart becomes strained; but I figured only 30 minutes of anything would be fine in the cold, as this isn’t shoveling snow. (Sometimes I have to guard myself from the return of the “guardedness” I experienced in my teenage and early college years, being then a bit of a hypochondriac).
Passing a rainwater runoff rivulet, I imagined how cold that water would feel to the touch. The idea then occurred to me that as cold as I was feeling (even despite “layering”), just one finger’s dip in that water might be all that was needed to freeze me solid, as if I were like the super-cooled rain that falls on a below-freezing surface, becoming “freezing rain.”
That “chilled” thought returned me to the morning scenes of frost-covered grass in W.A. Cline’s yard on the Old Concord Road, adjacent to where other neighborhood kids and I waited in his graveled drive for the school bus in the late 1950s-60s.
His was healthy grass, and healthily frost covered, not like the forward extent of my front yard, which was mostly clay and moss. That frost-covered, frost-heaved ground could have passed for Arctic tundra; but sadly, there were no wooly mammoth bones underneath for me to find.
Back in the present, I looked up into a blue sky, vacant except for a bank of typically “fancy” swirls of precipitation-forecasting cirrus clouds.
Their “calligraphal” appearance brought to mind the manner of penmanship displayed in the preserved documents of the founding fathers, archived in Washington, D.C.
Unlike chilled, warm-blooded digits down here, which must needs write “crabbedly” in the cold; the “hand” which writes those swirls in distant heights is naturally fueled by its element, capable of executing script there with a fluid, almost “Jeffersonian” flourish.
Common clichés about freezing wind say it “cuts” or “stabs”; but as I made my way down the sidewalk, it seemed to be “slicing” me.
It was almost as if the wind were gradually “whittling” me back down to the compositional “basics” of my personality of years ago.
In this cold “imagining,” both the negative and even the positive things which had happened to me in the years since boyhood were “pared” away, leaving me as I was then: Joe Williams’ “bundled-up” little brother on a cold winter’s day in the Granite Quarry schoolyard, wearing one of those late-1950s “little-boy-winter-ear-flap-caps,” its straps fastened securely beneath my chin.