Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snow






"A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."


Really, why is it that the very thought of snow makes me feel so melancholy?



from my favorite short story, "The Dead" by James Joyce.

39 comments:

nick said...

A wonderful description. I love snow myself, at least before it turns into revolting slush. Why does it make you melancholy? Don't think I can help you there. It's darkness that makes me melancholy, and I still can't explain that either.

Liza said...

I can appreciate your feeling, with winter being the final season. The closer if you will.
"His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling"
Wow for those words!

Ponita in Real Life said...

Uhoh... Leah, you've been spammed. Bastard! (Oh, sorry Jimmy... not you!)

I love it when the snow comes down in softly falling, large thick flakes, like puffs of down from the clouds. Airily light as it accumulates on the earth, it's like a giant duvet over us.

Unlike the icy little pellets ricocheting off your eyeballs when it is -20C and the wind is howling and it feels like -45C out there. That's brutal and just makes me want to get the hell out of Dodge.

We've not had much snow yet this winter. We actually need more to protect all the plants from an icy demise... they need insulation. Now that it is -25C.

@Liza: Is winter not also the opener? Each year starts with winter as well as ending with it.

Just an observation.

Jen Chandler said...

Beautiful! Snow does have a melancholy quality to it. A dreamy, otherworldly feel that pulls me away from the here and now and let's me float away to some distant place, beyond the chill.

Happy Thursday,
Jen

willow said...

Wow, this is fabulous. I've gotta dig up "The Dead" now, for a full, delicious read. Thank you!

mago said...

I wait for the Knudsen edition.

Hunter said...

It is the time of year for that paragraph. I could read that last sentence a million times and never grow tired of it. I really do need to purchase my own copy of Dubliners.

Candie Bracci said...

That is really beautiful Leah!Well it's true that snow can do that effect at times.Wishing you an happy day!

Brian Miller said...

i am with willow, that excerpt just got me warmed up...smile, snow covers all the uglies...happy tt!

JeffScape said...

Perhaps you have that seasonal affective disorder and winter is your "sad" season?

Or, you know, it could just be because it's so frickin' cold outside and everything looks dead!

;)

Tracey said...

Today I am finding that snow is sort of like the elephant and the blind man. So many different perspectives; so many different views.

Loved this one.

Wings said...

Great stuff. Snow has the ability to quiet us and make us look at things, like bleak and barren landscapes, in a new and wonderful way.

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Hi Leah,

I enjoyed the snow and cold weather as a kid growing up in Chicago. I always thought it was pretty cool when a new record for snowfall was established. In Texas, I never experienced harsh winters and I grew to miss the seasonal changes. Here in Virginia, we have the seasonal changes but it doesn't snow nearly as much.

Now that I'm older, I don't really miss the snow because most people in this area aren't accustomed to driving in snow, so it tends to cause accidents. It's always nice to step outdoors and see the warm air from your lungs chilled by the cold air.

U

Ronda Laveen said...

I think snow is somewhat melancholy because it slows us down and we can be introspective. It also comes in a time of the year when new life has not yet begun. Lovely.

e said...

Thanks for sharing this beautiful passage, and for your lovely comment to me. I'll definitely have to dig out more Joyce.

Happy Chanukkah beginning tomorrow!

Betsy said...

Me, too! I want to hear more! That cemetery photo is gorgeous!

Jimmy Bastard said...

Nicely written Leah, you add yet another string to your already very versatile bow. I particuarly liked the emphasis on the snowflakes themselves. Very graphic.

I doubt that anyone outside of certain parts of Glasgow or Belfast will pick up on the name "Furey", but using that particular name can either save you life or get you killed depending on exactly where you stray.

subby said...

Could it be that not many would want to venture out into it? The fear of "cabin fever" starts to set in...I'm guessing here, of course...

Poetikat said...

My house backs onto a cemetery. When the snow falls, the melancholy does indeed set in.
Have you seen the film, "The Dead"?

Martin H. said...

Thanks for bringing this passage to light. I, too, will have to seek out this story.

Perhaps the melancholy is brought on by the way snow concentrates the mind. As it changes the world around us, maybe our lives appear less familiar too. A case of the settling unsettling?

Tom said...

maybe it's the season changing...hate to see the lovely fall weather go...Winter is alright once we've adapted to it, but at the first it's a shock to the system; at least for me.

Harnett-Hargrove said...

When the snow is here, it is indeed introspection time. So much intro. I believe has no where to go but melancholy. -J

Santa Claus said...

HO HO HO! I don't want to hear melancholy on this joyous time of the year! We may not always feel happy, but the purity of the snow makes me want to grab my bag of toys and start delivering presents early! Merry Christmas!

Pat said...

Is it the hush of it?

mapstew said...

xxx

MJ said...

It's going to snow here this weekend!

YAY!

Maria said...

It has always seemed to me that the people who love snow the most have never lived through a blizzard.

I haven't loved snow since I was 10.

It is cold and my hand aches just looking at it.

Leah said...

nick: oh, yes, the slush makes me a bit gloomy too. It is truly unbelievable what happens to the pristine snow here in NYC--black slush within minutes!

Liza: I know, those words! I think they are some of the finest ever written. I cannot recommend that story highly enough, you can find it online in full text, or in his short story collection, "Dubliners."

Ponita: I hate being spammed! I always brush it off as quickly as possible.

I really like that sweet image of the snow as a duvet--and also as an "opener," that starts the year. Very lovely.

Jen: you're right, the melancholy is not necessarily a bad thing, is it.

Willow: yes, you must! I just reread it last night for, oh, the hundredth time or so...it never ceases to amaze me with its sheer brilliance.

Leah said...

mago: the Knudsen edition of "Dubliners"! I'd love to get my hands on that.

Hunter: a million times. That is exactly how I feel about it. You can find it full-text online. But there's nothing like having it in your hands. We have a few copies, some of them all marked up with our thoughts. My favorite is a little tiny Penguin edition that is just the one story, "The Dead."

Candie: I suppose it doesn't always make me feel melancholy, it can be exciting too, that first snow. Hedgie always relishes it and her sense of delight is very sweet.

Brian: you're right, snow can transform even the mean streets of NYC!

Jeff: lol, yes! to both of those. Maybe more the latter than the former. It was soooo cold tonight, and sooo dark. WTF? I'm just praying for the solstice and the longer days.

Tracey: it is interesting how many different feelings this theme elicited, isn't it? Snow is very evocative for people, in good and bad ways.

Leah said...

Wings: I like that take on it. It's positive but poignant too. I guess that's how I feel about snow.

U: I sometimes think that all the delights of snow are for children, really. But maybe I could take a lesson from Hedgehog.

Ronda: introspective. Exactly. Even thinking about it, reading about it, looking at photos of it, makes me pensive and introspective.

e: yes! dig out the Joyce!!! ; )

Happy Chanukah to you too!

Betsy: yes, you too! Get yourself a copy of "Dubliners" if you don't have one already!

Jimmy: now you've got me wondering about the name "Furey." There's quite a bit in Joyce's work that I'm sure I don't quite understand. I think I need an annotated version.

subby: I do get nervous about being snowed in, although there's not much chance of that happening. The claustrophobia is pretty intense at times, with a strong snowfall.

Kat: your house is on a cemetery? How lucky you are!

And I have seen "the Dead" on film. I love the story so much that I don't think they could have possibly made a version to satisfy me, but I will say that the Anjelica Huston casting was inspired. She simply is Greta.

Leah said...

Martin: yes, that is brilliant of you! As it changes the world around us, maybe our lives appear less familiar too. A case of the settling unsettling?

Wow. Well said.

Tom: it is such a shock! I was being blown along this afternoon on a strong cold wind, and just feeling so buffetted...

Jayne: my cheer does leave me just a bit...nowhere to go but melancholy, as you say.

Santa!!!!: I'm a Jew, it's my destiny to be melancholy at Christmastime! LOL...

Pat: that's part of it, definitely. The way it muffles all the regular sounds of life and commerce...

map: xxx back! I wondered what these specific references from Joyce mean to you. Or is that like assuming a Californian gets special meaning out of "Last Exit to Brooklyn" just because it's American lit? if you know what I mean. I may be generalizing...

MJ: make sure you have your mittens ready!

Maria: Ah yes, blizzards are a whole other matter, aren't they? The inexorable snow after snow...

The Girl from Lokhandwala said...

This paragraph makes me want to try and read his book. Very visual.

Megan said...

You know, I've seen that movie like ten times, but never read the book?

Bad Megan.

Thanks for the reminder.

An excellent choice for this Thursday.

Who Is Tim Burton? said...

Leah said,"Really, why is it that the very thought of snow makes me feel so melancholy?"

Hi! Leah,
Hmmm...that is a good question.
It seem like there is less sunlight during the winter month...which sometimes can evoke melancholy. I'am not sure why you feel that way.

What a nice poem and post about snow.
Thanks, for sharing!
DeeDee ;-D

Leah said...

Girl from L: I strongly recommend it! You're right, it is quite visual--all his writing is.

Megan: you'll love it. The movie, while good, doesn't hold a candle to his writing.

Deedee: I think the dark, short days are really hard to take after awhile! At least we're coming up on the solstice soon.

Karen ^..^ said...

Beautiful. I must read it now.

And the thought of snow makes me feel melancholy too. Mostly because it inspires a bit of homesickness.

Baino said...

I'm so terribly late once again. Thank goodness for Saturdays! Melancholy? I guess it's the way I feel during long periods of rain which sadly, do not happen often enough.

lettuce said...

did you take the photo? just perfect for the fabulous quote

...mmm... said...

I haven't read that before. Isn't it wonderful?