Guest Columns

Shivering Through the Longest Winter of Our Discontent

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By Michael Gold

There is no joy in Pleasantville. The mighty sun has struck out. Over and over again.

I’ve borrowed from the poem, “Casey At the Bat,” with apologies to the author Ernest Thayer.

At the end of the poem, Thayer writes, “Somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining bright, the band is playing somewhere and somewhere hearts are bright…But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.”

Ordinarily, one might look to Texas, that eternally optimistic of American places, for some sunshine. That would be wrong now. Texas suffered a weather disaster of epic proportions, with relentless cold, ice and snow. A place with the unlikely name Gun Barrel City received the unwanted gift of more than nine inches of snow.

Having been tested by too-numerous storm-caused power outages ourselves here in Westchester, we can offer our compassion and empathy to the millions in Texas chattering in bone-chilling cold with no electricity. I’m glad President Biden is offering federal disaster assistance.

Last week 73 percent of the continental United States had snow cover, according to the National Weather Service. My daughter asked me the other day what a new Ice Age might look like. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture one. I could start just by looking at my front window.

You’d have to travel to Mexico for a dose of pure, unadulterated sunshine right now.

The sun here is proving to be an elusive ghost, disappearing behind snowstorms, freezing rain or just plain grey skies, pitching itself outward only for a few rare moments here and there, like a thief unsure of when to make a move on his intended victim.

As the microscopic apocalypse of COVID-19 has entrenched itself in the land, each day we wake up to a rough repeat of the day before, enclosed in a box of grey. We put ourselves through the same routine, with precious little variation. We’re in an endless, repeating loop.

I never thought I could come to despise a forecast of snow, but each flake I see on my phone etches a streak of grey in my brain. The polar vortex is attacking again! Run for the hills!

The wonders of water turning itself into frozen white pellets that fall from the sky, bringing the very foundation of life directly to us, begins to pall when it refuses to stop dropping on our front yards, driveways and doorsteps.

Perhaps the sun, like all of us, longs for a vacation. I can see the giant orange, yellow orb stretching out on a lounge chair, savoring a fruity drink, spiced with rum, next to a blue pool the size of California, a cheap detective novel by his side on the deck, savoring his own heat and contemplating the restorative powers of relaxation in a warm, languid place where nothing much happens as the palm trees bow to a gentle Caribbean wind.

Despite repeated demands from his constituents to get back on the job, the sun refuses all requests for relief. The view is too good, and the continual parade of rum drinks makes a compelling case for him to continue to do nothing.

From my house, I can see cars pushing along the parkway. People trudge back and forth through the damp streets. A young woman walks her little dog and stares at a cellphone. The regularity of this routine begins to numb the senses.

The cold bites into us, even inside the confines of our home. We sit with blankets heaped on our laps and watch the bare trees loiter with mindless purpose, sleeping straight up.

I keep reminding myself that this all must end soon. Our part of the planet will continue to turn toward the sun, lengthening the days and warming the air. 

The federal government is pushing hard to get millions more vaccines into our arms as soon as possible, which will help free us from staring at our computers and pacing up and down our living rooms for much of the day.

Pitchers and catchers reported for spring training Feb. 17. Soon, young men with defiantly superior athletic skills will run wind sprints on vast fields of grass. A bat will connect with a ball speeding toward the plate and send it soaring toward a perfectly blue sky.

The trees will wake up and sprout rich, green leaves. Flowers will bud with riots of yellow, red, purple and blue. Scarlet ripples will weave themselves into the clouds of a new sky. Children will find their bicycles and take a ride out on to the quiet streets under the watchful eyes of their proud and nervous parents.

To quote another famous poet, here comes the sun. And not a moment too soon.

Pleasantville resident Michael Gold has had op-ed articles published on the New York Daily News, the Albany Times Union and other newspapers.

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