Privyet, Ulster County,
An easy wind blows this morning, December 17, swung around to come out of the west. The moon’s glow is diffused among the clouds. Wisps of pulled taffy are no longer pregnant with rain.
The temperature hovers around freezing. Without any real commitment, here in the Rondout it will rise up to 40° today. Low tide will pull out at 2:36 p.m., and the river will rise again at 7:43. There is no rain in the forecast. The sun is about as low on the horizon as it will get. With the solstice just four days away, the sunset falls at 4:25. According to the incorrigible fur trapper Dionizas on the slope of Mount Tremper, there remain 83 days of winter temperatures ahead.
Now for the snow forecast we go out to Bjorn Jorgensen on Belleayre Mountain. Are you still alive. Bjorn? Have you survived the long night? And was there snow?
Bjorn: Yes, of course. Nineteen more inches over the last 24 hours and -3° Celsius at the summit. But my dreams are strange.
Johannes: I should think so. That’s what comes from living on a mountain and consorting with snowmen. What do you dream about?
Bjorn: I dreamt of seagulls standing in the snow on the edge of a dock watching a frozen river rise. And twisted tree trunks that turn themselves around like squeezed rags to follow the sun. I watched them do it. Not quickly, but not slowly, either. It’s uncanny when you see the trees move together. And so I suppose the sun was rushing across the sky too quickly. And yet when the sun set I knew months would pass before it rose again. The trees and the seagulls and I waiting together in the darkness.
Johannes: Awful portents, Bjorn. And what do the snowmen say?
Bjorn: Oh, it’s all as you would expect. Endless talk of controlling the means of production, Johannes. Getting a handle on the distribution of goods. Production for the benefit of the rank-and-file. Public ownership versus private. That old song that keeps getting sung. If the chamber of commerce could hear them, it’d make their hair stand up on end. They’d be up here with torches and pitchforks, waving incense and preaching the free-market catechism.
Hah! That’s very witty. Karl says religion and business are complementary horns on the same rhinoceros, the small distance between the two the better to gore us with.
Johannes: There’s a chamber of commerce on the mountain?
Bjorn: Of course. Who do you think owns all the pine cones in the forest? Who do you think owns the snow?
Johannes: And do they own the morning mist as well?
Bjorn: And the sunlight where it falls.
But yes, the comrade snowmen. At first, whenever I passed their voices dropped, like sunlight in a shadow, and they would just stare with their smoldering coal eyes. The night progressed in such a fashion with them silent in the firelight. But in the end, what can they do?
For breakfast I resolved to sit down with some slivovitz and warm spiced ale and a plate of salted reindeer fat, and to stay there sanding my skis and giving little observations about the base-level improvements in the lot of the poor globally, and how important it was to exercise the right to work — until they became exasperated.
There’s nothing they can do of course, I’m sure of that. No arms. So they gave up on their silence, and chose argument instead. It was very satisfying, I must say, and not all their points are bad. Regardless, Karl is still the leader. Friedrich, the taller snowman on the left, seems to hold some sway. He’s the more cautious thinker of the two as far as I can tell and yet a pragmatist. I expect a power struggle.
I haven’t gotten the third one’s name yet. He appears a little slower, but as is often the case the more dedicated to the maxims. He has the spirit of the better foot soldier.
Johannes: Aren’t you worried with them loitering around?
Bjorn: Hah. These revolutionaries are talkers. A classic conflict between the necessity for direct action versus the dissipating wisdom of picking the right moment, which acts as a pressure valve to deflate all momentum. Just like the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.
Johannes: I’m sorry, which civil war?
Bjorn: Now you’ve done it. Karl is beside himself. He says it was no civil war, not the last real revolution. Well, maybe so, but they never stood a chance. According to Karl, the time wasn’t right for revolution. Friedrich says the revolution was betrayed by a political calculation to maintain the status quo in the short term.
Johannes: You’re losing me in a snow drift, Bjorn. I think I’d better leave you to it.
If the clouds allow, a crescent moon will be visible in the sky, setting at 12:51 in the afternoon, only to rise again, just 30 percent full, a crescent to light the night at 1:47 a.m.