I awoke early this morning to another cold rainy gray day. As I got out of bed and put on my robe, Dingo came back soaking wet from his walk. While Brendan made coffee, I toweled him off and fed him, and then he sloped off to the couch for a nap while we drank our coffee, holding onto the mugs for warmth.
We’re all craving sun and warmth. Every time I put my coat on yet again to go out, I think, what season is this? Outside, I adjust my expectations, put on my hood, try to convince myself that it’s not late February. The chilly air forces me to stay retracted into myself, like a prolonged inhalation, when I’m jonesing to expand and turn outward and get the stale air out of my lungs. The trees and bushes in this town are just starting to bud, but barely, cautiously; I’m sure they all feel the same way I do, as well as the bulb flowers, which are getting a late start in recently thawed dirt. The ash tree in back always puts out leaves much later than the trees around it. It’s showing no signs of renewed life yet, and I don’t expect anything from it for a while. We’re all walking around hunched into our warm clothes, looking askance at the sky, griping to anyone who will listen, marveling at how disappointed we all are after such a brutal winter to be denied a warm, sunny spring. It feels unnatural and cruel. Our bones are cold and our timbers are shivering, up here in the north.
Rebelling is pointless. Yesterday, at the Japanese place, the waitress was surprised that I wanted cold sake rather than hot. Defiantly, I ordered it, along with a big cold fresh crunchy salad and a summery cucumber-avocado roll. It’s spring, dammit, I thought. But the meal failed to warm my cockles; I stayed chilled. I had to drink a pot of piping-hot tea to recover from it.
This morning after cinnamon French toast with hot maple syrup and blueberries, we took our daily walk on the Eastern Prom, the foghorn lowing, the high tide slapping and sucking against the stone sea wall, the pavement and gravel and grass all sopping wet. It was too foggy to see the bay or islands. The rain slid down, greasy and cold, not a spring rain but a chilly one, with malicious intent. Up on the cliffs, the still-bare branches dripped.
The only people out besides us were two groups of men, none of them up to any good: a couple of wild-eyed hobos drinking hooch and puffing cheap cigars on the stone steps up to the trail (“Happy spring! Beautiful spring day!” they trumpeted at us as we climbed up past them, cackling as if this were the best joke ever made), and then a group of three preppy, athletic-looking teenage boys in blazers and khakis. They ambled by us on the path, not making eye contact, trailing the smell of skunky ganja. They looked like sweet-natured, well-bred high-school seniors cutting school.
“That could have been me fifteen years ago,” said Brendan.
“One of them even looks like you.” I paused. “Ha ha, you were in high school fifteen years ago.”
“I was in high school thirty-five years ago.”
I laughed. “I was in the class of 1980.”
He laughed. “I was in the class of 2000.”
“I’d been married for four years by then. I’d published a novel.”
“You graduated from high school two years before I was born,” he said.
It never fails to amuse and entertain us, our age difference. We never seem to tire of exchanging these facts and marveling at them, holding them up like shiny objects, cocking our heads at them. “You were how old then?” is a question guaranteed to amuse us.
Maybe we’re so fascinated by these things because we’re equals. When we’re alone together, we feel as if we’re the same age. He knows all the old songs, he’s seen all the old movies, he’s read all the books I’ve read. I could never condescend to him or make him feel callow, nor would I. And because he’s emotionally steadier and calmer and more grounded than I am, he never makes me feel hoary or staid. We’ve decided that we’re both around forty. Or maybe I’m a little younger than that. Who knows? What is age, again?
“We were the only ones out today without booze or drugs,” I pointed out as we climbed the steep hill to where we’d parked. “I feel left out.”
“I want some whiskey now,” said Brendan.
“This is a good day for whiskey.”
“Perfect whiskey weather,” said Brendan. “Something peaty and single malty.”
“We have some Laphroaig left from Scotch Club.”
We got into the car, Dingo in the backseat with his wet, dirty underbelly, us humans in front with our wet, muddy shoes. The windshield was soaked with rain. Windshield wipers creaking, we drove slowly along. It was time to discuss the night’s menu.
I decided to forget about rebelling against this damned unnatural weather and try to combat it.
“How about a fish soup, maybe a chowder?” I said. “With hot bubbling melted cheese toast?”
“Yes,” said Brendan. “And whiskey.”
At Whole Foods, we bought Yukon Gold potatoes, a bag of frozen corn, a bunch of parsley, plus frozen fish broth and half a pound each of monkfish, haddock, and sea scallops. We got a chunk of goat gouda for the cheese toast.
We came home and toweled Dingo off. Our house felt chilly. The heat was on, the radiators were doing their best, but lately the air in here seems to be refusing to warm up, as if in protest.
Later on, after our work gets done, we’ll make a batch of cocktails based on something called a Penicillin that Brendan drank in a bar in L.A. once, to cure his cold: Laphroaig, ginger-honey simple syrup, and lemon juice. It’s a cold cocktail, as befits the season, but it ought to warm us up just fine.
This was just perfect.
As beautiful as MFK Fisher, who sits on my nightstand like a bible.
May spring arrice for the three of you, soon.
Spring arrived in NJ today. Trees are all in bloom, daffodils almost finished, dandelions springing up everywhere, and it was really warm, no jackets needed. We had over 5 inches of very chilly rain yesterday but today was beautiful!
I felt the chill in your words and it felt good. Northern Cal but 90 degrees today…
Loved this. Thank you. (Shockingly, Seattle had 80 degree temps this week. I got a heat rash. Of course I did.)
I’ve followed your blog for a while, read Jeremy Thrane a few weeks ago and just finished The Great Man (totally LOVED)…such gifted writing. The others are all on my Kindle awaiting a clear, perfect time to be indulged.
Life here in Ireland is pretty much as you described with a big,grey lump of cloudy rain descending on the country pretty much from the end of September till about now.
I can judge the length of winter by the amount of fuel I need for my 50-year-old oil-fired AGA.
1500 litres is the normal winter and I let the stove run out of fuel before putting it in hibernation for the summer.
If I need a further top up it’s been a looong winter.
But after the worst winter storms in living memory Spring’s mild weather has arrived and this year I may even get to turn off the AGA before the oil runs out.
Our mutt will complain for a day or two though because he sleeps in the kennel outside during the summer rather than in front of the AGA.
I think he,the AGA and my much younger wife will see more winters than myself though.
Cold winds are chilling me to the bones here in northern Germany . Last year it snowed most of the time. I will return to sunny very dry California next week. A great remedy for cold days is a hot bath.
Praise for you words might be stressful, the need to be brilliant again can’t be fun to replicate but when you write naturally about any day of your life, to your reader’s there’s nothing better. You are such a master with the written word, I’ve been a fan for over a decade.
Beautiful and fragrant, it transported me to you kitchen, thank you for sharing.
– Kasia S.
my partner Jill & I are almost exactly the same – classes of 1980 & 2001, respectively (I’m the baby). we’ve been together twelve years now, which is the number we tend to marvel over more often these days, but I know the giggly moments you are referring to so well, as well as that sense of total relativity where age is concerned. we used to play that game with songs on the radio–you were HOW old when Aerosmith’s “Angel” came on?, etc.