There’s Irony for You

branches 006 - Copy

Year ago, I was teaching my 6th graders various literary terms and concepts, and asked them to incorporate some of these into a short written piece. One of the boys created a story about prisoners in Alcatraz painstakingly plotting their escape. One, “Pierre,” had dreams of tap dancing. When they finally broke out and swam towards freedom, a shark sidled up and devoured Pierre’s legs. The story ended with the line, “There’s irony for you.”

February has been so watery and pale that on many days the horizon has eerily disappeared. The snow and ice-covered land has seemed to dissolve into a sky emptied of color, as though some cosmic vampire has sucked all the earth of its blood. Even the birds evidence their ennui. The shortest month has become the longest

Snow, Murphy, House, Birds 053 - CopyFebruary has become Life as a Swedish Movie. Everyone moves about in his own little sphere of tortured suffering: Hand to forehead; deep sighs; endless gazes into the distance; depressing non-sequiturs about spoiled grain, virgin springs, strawberries and dying butterflies exchanged without eye contact. Everything black, white, somber and funereal. If Max Von Sydow entered the room and ignored me, it would seem entirely predictable.

I headed out for an eye appointment yesterday afternoon and my little VW Bug slid and ricocheted off the icy rims of the endless-as-February driveway, heedless of my efforts to steer. I began to doubt reaching the road in one piece was a likely goal. I was navigating some nightmare carnival ride and damn near gave up to plod back to the safety of the house and resume gazing out the window and sighing.

But I forbore, steadfast in my determination to give myself a change of scene.

But the scene changed not. Except that the endless hills of white and gray gave way to the dirty puddled streets and buildings, and cars corroding from layers of salt.

I entered the optometrist’s office and my own forced smile was met by the receptionist’s frozen grimace; brittle attempts at dialogue were made, briefly, before we lapsed into silence. I may have choked on a sob or two.

Across the street, I saw a woman half-heartedly try to talk a man down from a window ledge. It was only a foot or two above the street, but I understood his despair.

I was summoned to the back room for my eye exam, conducted in mutual and muted grunts, varied only by long sighs. I looked at the gray carpet and thanked my doctor, who stared at the white wall and muttered that death is our ever-present companion.

But then, as I reached for my coat, and scarf, and sweater, and mittens, and hat, and boots, a strange light filled the sky. I looked out in wonder. Shadows, colors, and the illusion of warmth magically swept across the cityscape. Pedestrians ceased plodding and their steps became buoyant. I heard music. I turned and smiled towards the receptionist and she smiled towards me. Light bounced back and forth between the lenses in our glasses and we laughed and spoke of gardens.

Garden End of May Early June 2010 004Across the street, the desperate man leapt down from the ledge and executed a complicated but nonetheless merry Swedish folk dance. Melting snow fell from the roof of the building, covering all but his feather-tufted Tyrolean hat.

snow, February 040There’s irony for you.

snow, February 003Sunshine and Happy Valentine’s Day to you!


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18 thoughts on “There’s Irony for You

  1. Kitty, I’m here on the couch, sidelined by the flu, and laughing out loud by “February has become Life as a Swedish Movie” – oh my. But the power of the sun – glad it lightened your day. Beautiful photos, as always, especially the Valentine’s Day red! Hang in there, the shortest longest month is halfway gone 🙂


    1. Oh, so sorry to hear you’re flu-bound, Lynn, and glad I could give you a healing laugh or two…just when the deepest spiritual work of the season is squeezing its way to light, I usually have to ‘splode with a little humor. 🙂


      1. After I read this, I started thinking about the opening scene with the uncle at the Christmas party in “Fanny and Alexander ” – Bergman’s kindliest movie, and I started laughing all over again. Apparently he did have a sense of humor at times. I’m feeling better today, so the laughter MUST have been healing 🙂


  2. Oh wow! I was SO absorbed in this saga I actually felt like I was there!!!
    I too howled laughing at this post….and simply LOVED that funny little hat lying there so forlorn in the snow!!! I tell you what….I’ll be watching a lot more Swedish movies if they are as good as this!!!!! Here’s to a thaw…..just to alleviate the heavy sighing if nothing else!!! lol xxxxx


  3. So fun. No worries. March is not far behind. If you like, I will bottle some California sunshine and mail it to you. Not sure in what condition it will arrive however!


  4. Love this! I spit coffee on my shirt as I read about the Doctor ignoring your good bye and staring at a wall, muttering that death is our ever present companion : ) Reminded me of your story about Horst and Malga — “Ya. Mama put da pies out to cool, und off we go.” Thank you for making a dark gloomy day a bright one!


  5. Wow, great post, Catherine! You aptly describe my sentiment about this dreary winter months. Somehow, just as I’m getting hit by the winter blues, the sky would turn out a spectacular display of colors that make me forget why I’m feeling blue in the first place. 😉


    1. Isn’t that the best? The sun always seems to know when we just. can’t. take. another. minute without it…Come to think of it, it’s a little passive aggressive. 🙂 Joy to your (coming) spring, Malou…Your visit to Monet’s garden certainly brightened my week!


  6. Simply brilliant! You captured February to perfection Kitty! “Even the birds evidence their ennui.” This line will always be seared in my mind when I think of February! And just the right dose of droll humour that brings the reader on to the verge of bleakness and yet not quite. I loved the feeling of hovering just above that surface of gloom and then being pulled above the clouds to where the sun always shines. Thank you for this marvelous piece! My heart indeed skipped and laughed out loud this gray February day. A big hug after such a long time! Sharon


  7. You know many hugs are winging their way to Finland, too, Sharon. Welcome back; it’s lovely to hear your words and feel your distinctly kind and eloquent goodness. You bring so many gifts to the table!


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