Monday, December 05, 2005


I awoke on Saturday morning to snow. Pulled open the curtains and there it was, a thick layer of it on the roofs, the sidewalks, piled up on the balcony -- everywhere, even the branches outside my living room window. Was gone by the end of the day, but it's back again today, with some of the in-between stuff now gone to ice and sleet and slush. You'll walk down one street and be perfectly sure-footed, then turn up another and be slipping and sliding and suddenly feeling the muscles on the insides of your thighs. (I pause to address all those people who do not live in California. Some of us do not know what this stuff is that falls upon the ground and stays there, piling up like so much cotton. We gaze at the Heavens in wonder when simple rain falls, but this, this is truly amazing indeed.)

It struck me, while taking short steps across an especially slippery stretch, that this is the foundation of much of Russia's literature. Because how can you look up, how can you raise your chin with confidence and pride, inflate yourself, so to speak, like Gatsby or some frilled courtier in an Austen novel, if you might fall on your ass at the next corner. Keep your eyes to the ground. Walk slowly, with short, deliberate steps. Wear a face like the angry man, the bitter man that Doestoyevsky wrote about, thrust your hands into your black overcoat like Raskolnikov; this is snow, снег, and it will be here for months.