Saturday, January 31, 2004

Dream World

Winter on the northwest coast of America is a muted concept. Reading Dave's description of winter in much of America, much of the world outside the tropics, in fact, made me pause and think about it, think about how different winter is here. Figure and ground change places in winter, said Dave, with his usual insight and precision. A snow landscape in Connecticut is all reversed, the bones become the skin and the skin becomes the bone.

But not here. Here the sky draws down, a little darker, a little grayer. The rains set in harder; the lawns grow and no one can mow them, because they're wet for weeks at a time. The deciduous trees do drop their leaves eventually, but they're in the minority and don't really change the gestalt: the douglas firs still rule the skyline with their ragged-needled arms, in winter as in summer. Nothing changes. The gutters rush in torrents often. But they do that in the summertime too. Vivid wet brown and green, gray sky, sudden brief sun: all year round. In the middle of January there can be blue sky and shirtsleeve weather; in the middle of July it can be foggy and pouring cold rain.

Winter is dark, here. Not for us the dazzling white of new-fallen snow, the suddenly opened stark landscapes. Winter is dreamtime, quiet time, the shroud of the fog, the endless beat of the rain. The smell of wet cedar and the irridescent sheen of oil on sopping asphalt. The land never really falls asleep, and in the summer it never really wakes. This is the dream world.

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