Whether Weather, or Not

One thing might be certain as we embark onboard ship 2021, there should be weather. Notice the qualification, for there are times when the weather seems to disappear. These are the days we sit out, barefoot, open, a grassy hill overlooking the houses and farther in the city, where the cars are the size of ants and behave accordingly, one on the tail of another. Whether or not we enjoy the weather seems to be a matter of taste. An old friend called on Thanksgiving to say hello. The weather here Thanksgiving week was cold but calm and mostly dry, highs in the low 40’s, lows in the high 20’s. In the afternoon, we put a couple of cafe umbrellas over the deck. The plan was to set out dips and chips and cut fresh vegetables, drink a beer or two, and grill some goose (aka chicken), and eat on the deck, three in our party, masked and distanced, at separate tables. Jacketed and hatted with blankets to drape over one’s legs. A small outdoor heater provided a psychologically friendly red hot burner, but its heat dissipated quickly and wasn’t of much practical use. Still, there it was, in the center of things, and we took turns moving up to it to warm our hands and seats over the fire, as it were. Meantime, down on the southern coast, winds over 100 miles per hour blasted away at Cape Blanco. I briefly described out situation, our predicament, over the phone to above said old friend, and asked for a description of his plans for Thanksgiving. He said it was too cold in their location to eat outside. What’s the temperature, I asked. 65, he replied. Degrees, or age? I wondered. Now, here, we are in the throes of a wet January winter, the temperature mild, highs in the 40’s, the rain coming as it does off the Pacific, moving inland over the valleys, pushing colder air to the east of us. But the point of this little post isn’t to sound like a weather report. Still, the weather is with us, and we ignore it at our peril. Better to go out into it, walk unsteadily the tipsy decks of ship 2021, the better to say, if we survive the storms, we lived them, and did not cower, though we did mask up, even if we might sound like our favorite Shakespearean Dad:

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!”

A Literary Thanksgiving Feast

"Hard Times for These Times," Charles Dickens (1854). Drawing: "Mr. Harthouse Dining at the Bounderbys'."

On a big platter in the middle of the full table sits the fat novel, its dust jacket a cracking bronze, peeling at the edges, its pages sliced and curling, its story stuffed with, well, stuffing: characters mixed with plot in a warm, moist setting, everyone talking at once, voices waxing, then waning, then waxing again, still louder.

A bowl of essays is passed around the table; there’s plenty for everyone. There’s a new dish, something called “creative non-fiction.” I try some, but find it’s not so new, after all, for isn’t all writing creative? And anyway why would we want to read writing that is not creative?

“Pass the poems, please,” someone at the other end of the table says. Poems are like olives. Some have pits, putting your teeth at risk; others are pitted, hollow. Some poems are saltier than others, and may be filled with white almonds or cherry red pimento peppers. If you squeeze a poem you get cooking oil.  And like olive oil, the oil from poems might be extra-virgin, refined, or not potable.

A gravy bowl of APA-style sauce spills across the tablecloth and an argument ensues as to who is at fault, an argument of causation. “Why is that nasty stuff even on the table?” someone asks. A short scene flashes into a drama that quickly subsides with a denouement of dessert: The Emperor of Ice Cream appears with chocolate covered couplets.

But that’s not all, for then Sestina rolls in a six-layered, short story torte. It’s a literary feast, and in these hard times, we are thankful, at least, for literature.

Addendum: My sister Barb’s comment reminded me that I neglected to include beverages in the literary feast post, and I suggested she pick up a six pack of Ballads and maybe a couple of bottles of Memoir. Limericks might be served for pre-meal cocktails, unfermented satire for those who like less bite, but large jugs of stream of consciousness should be kept full and within reach, for readers will surely be thirsty.

Update, Nov. 24: Thanks to Berfrois for joining us at the table!