Thursday, January 20, 2005

Cup 35 & 36: Midgets in the Mud

Originally uploaded by matt_leclair.
Where: around the house, Orono, ME
When: Jan 20, 8:30 am, 2005
Who: Dot & Dash
Coffee: Maine Roasters
Mood: resigned

One of the worst books I've ever been forced to read was Ole Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth. I think it was for Race and Culture in Literature, or some such class, and the instructor was of Norwegian descent, so he wanted to get the Norwegian American experience into the class. I remember we called it Midgets in the Mud, we hated it so much. I've mercifully blotted out most of it, but I do remember one scene where the main character finishes his coffee before going out to commit suicide by going outside to do stuff when it was too cold. I remembered that book this morning. It was dark when I first got up. In the six hours since I'd fallen asleep over a foot of snow had fallen. I had to dig my mother's car out so she could get to school. She's considered essential personnel so she has to work no matter what the weather, even when the campus is closed. Funny that a librarian would be essential personnel while the president isn't. It is amazing how beautiful a snowstorm is at 5 am. Just me and my shovel, nobody else around, snow falling silently around me. That sense of wonder lasted until the cold seeped in. I got my mother dug out and ran back to bed and slept til the sun came up. Pretty much everything in the state was cancelled because of the weather, so I could sleep in.

I remembered the suicidal Norwegian American as I drank my coffee. I could think of nothing I wanted to do less than go back out into that cold. There was just so much snow, a foot and a half in parts. You wind up shoveling it two or three times because the piles get so high that it falls back on you. If it weren't for the coffee, starting the fire in me and keeping it burning I don't know how I could have managed it. I made extra to leave in the thermal carafe so I knew it would be waiting for me when I got back inside. It kept me going. This kind of shoveling is a test. You keep going until you're too cold and too tired, then you take a break and then go back to it. Knowing the coffee was there, I could push it. My hands were numb, my back was tired and my lungs hurting, but I could say to myself, "The coffee is waiting. The relief will be there for you the instant you go back inside. Can't you keep going five minutes more?" And I could!

In the kitchen (top window), my coffee waits.

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