Friday, February 20, 2009


     When you get right down to it, I was just afraid for my plants. I was worried about my Japanese anemones and chrysanthemums, my roses, my freshly-planted Abies concolor,1my common broom and my new phlox and everything else which grows and blooms in this part of the universe which I call my property. Such a dry winter with no protective layer of snow, the cold, the hard frost, a black or barren winter is worthless; the soil cannot rest and stay warm under the snow and hold in its moisture, the exposed plant bulbs will freeze and the roots will break and the buds will get blasted with frost and it will all turn into a wasteland. It is so, and for that reason every gardener says that it should snow, and he worries from November to March, and makes regular trips to the barometer to summon huge drops in pressure. And when the winter is bare and desolate, black, dry as a bone with expanses of nothing, then the gardener—

     Here’s the thing: a gardener does not turn beseechingly to the heavens and say: “Lord God, if only some snow would fall on my garden, on my anemones and roses, and if not on them, at least on the rows of tulips, they’re right over there, and on the other beds too! I say no one does that to settle their own account with the weather when there are other people around, and so we complain about the prevailing weather, saying:

     “If only I didn’t have the flu! The flu always goes around when the winter is so dry. You’d see, if the snow fell then we’d all get over the flu—the bacilli would all get trapped under the snow and die, and besides, when it snows the air gets refreshed and that’s that for disease.”

     Or: “That’s that, then—it should snow.”

     Or: “Unemployment! If only there were no unemployment! If the snow fell they’d have to clear the streets and there would be work like crazy. But when the winter’s so miserable…”

     Or: “And what about the children? They can’t even go sledding this winter, they can’t make snowmen—how is that at all healthy? But if the snow fell the children would look completely different, hale and hearty, with their little apple cheeks all rosy."

     Or: “I mean, in my childhood it was different: snow up to the knee every year, icicles to the ground—my, those were beautiful winters! Everything sparkled with purity and beauty. Now people can't help but be sad and devastated when there are such dark, foggy, miserable winters! As I say, its such a dirty business—”

     Or even: “They always call it the age of sports, but not if it doesn’t snow. [Skiing under the crematorium?] Not all of us can go to Switzerland or Jilemnice2 with our gear. If I had my way the snow would fall so people had enough for their sports, and everything would be in order.”

     And so I have fulminated this way or that again a dry and black winter, perhaps not to demand compassion for my anemones, or maybe because it is in human nature to couch one’s own interests and needs in the interests of society—in short:

     I swear, (I have an elevated notion that at this moment fifty thousand readers are placing their hands over their hearts3); is it not the same with so many societal questions both local and universal? Do we not make heavenly declarations under the banner of society and democracy for our own interests, private pain or personal dreams? Are our common ideals and protests and agendas not only masks with which we conceal a longing from ourselves for some private and egotistic satisfaction?

     Maybe so; and let it so be. And look, snow has fallen, and I confess my egotism; I cast off my hypocrisy and discover my true face. And while I admit my own ego, the children whistle and shout outside on their sleds, the shovels of the unemployed scrape the streets, the world is beautiful and people look happier leaving footprints in the snow.

     And once more (while we’re on the subject) hand on my heart: is there not something in our egos that is wishes good for the world? It’s not just about snow any more, but politics and other big selfish things. We might all feel selfishly, but maybe there is some desire in it, even unawares, to make the world more beautiful and our individual spheres happier; and for the buds of things yet to be born to thrive.



1 Abies concolor-the white fir, brought to our lands from North America, appears in parks and gardens in a variety of decorative forms.
2 [Jilemice-Wikipedia's paucity of information aside, assumedly it is (or was) a ski town.]
3 [I'd settle for five!]

1 comment:

qk said...

one! *hand over heart*

This is really great stuff--thanks for translating this beautiful prose, that would otherwise be completely lost for us less worldly-literate.