Doom sucks. I ought to know, I’ve been scared for years. We’ll get to that part later. On top of everything else, the ten day cycle of repeating snows—it seems like a lifetime—finally pounded the self-respect out of me. The road, you know. The cratered two hundred yards of dirt the county in its wisdom decided to stop plowing. After being stranded here for two days, we got the car out yesterday so we could buy some groceries. On the way back, I got very badly stuck. The heavy snowfall, well over a foot, had turned to icy slush our poor old tires couldn’t grip. It took almost an hour to finish the final twenty yards, and I don’t know how I did it.
The stress was already murderous, inconceivable in normal life. Getting stuck was confirmation of the overwhelming sense of failure that had overtaken me. That I hadn’t accomplished this or that and gotten us into a better home, that it was my own immoral “fault” that we were vulnerable to traditional (if not recent) winter weather at seven thousand feet! When I walked back into the house, my wife said, “I’m so sorry,” thinking the car was still crossways in the road the way she left it when she hiked home through the mud to rescue the groceries. I told her I’d gotten unstuck, then fell apart completely, crying and screaming and throwing things. Everything was over, all at once. I couldn’t believe I’d trapped us in this goddamn awful stupid place where nothing works and crooked politicians let the people go to hell. Perhaps that rings a bell, eh? There’s a kind of satisfaction in breaking down, too, because it feels so true. I can see why people commit the most horrible crimes and have to kill themselves.
The afternoon descended into toxic brooding interspersed with bouts of panic. I even counted all the money and added in what she’d be getting from my insurance if I fell into the gorge. Good God! How far gone does someone have to be to think that this would be a comfort?!
Around midnight I allowed myself a bath. Right there, this was progress. The place we’re in used to be the dead landlord’s home. He was a tall fellow, easily six foot five or six. The bathtub is a special order oversized affair. (On winter nights it saves my life, and I will miss it when we’re gone.) While I was lying there reflecting on my “miseries,” I realized I had made them. That I had drawn them to me, in effect, by burdening my stupendous life with guilt and fear and bullshit out of all proportion to what ailed me. But that’s just one epiphany. The other is, the underlying energy is real. It isn’t going anywhere and thunders right along. My father was a pilot. Before he flew, he always read the pre-flight checklist. That makes sense when you’re depending on machines, but organisms have to bet on life. My breath goes in and out all by itself. Try doing that intentionally and see what happens.
In the morning, I went out to buy new tires. Usually this involves extensive research on my part. Every aspect, ever angle, warrants hard evaluation. I read reviews and study everything from sidewall stiffness to rolling resistance. Finally I choose my tires, and I also watch them like a hawk to see if this or that reported negative appears. (What do you know, it always does!) This time, though, the need for speed was paramount. We might not have gotten stuck the day before with decent tread depth, and the winter isn’t over.
I called ahead to see what brands the dealer had in stock. He mentioned one I’d never heard of, new from China. I sort of liked the name (BlackLion), but China? Oh no! That put me in another zone. I’ve seen the plumbing fixtures, after all. The tires were cheap, though. Almost too cheap, clucked my inner chicken. A minute on the Google, all that I had time for, showed me that my favorite tire geek website didn’t sell them, aargh. Farther down the page, however, were a couple of guys in Baltimore who were happy with the tires. But did they wear well, what about the steering, did the gas mileage go up or down, how were they in snow (!), was anything about them even cool at all? Who the hell could say? All the Baltimore reviewers cared about was that the things were “quiet,” and I imagined old Jewish guys from Reisterstown or Towson who drove their Buicks to Ocean City once a year. But there was also lightness in the air: the dealer told me come on down, with no appointment, and they’d have me out the door for just four hundred bucks with lifetime balancing and flat repairs. This felt like summer vacation, and I needed one.
You know the rest, I hope. I got the tires, drove straight home, and only slid a little bit. They look like tires are supposed to look and hold the car up off the ground. Life goes on in Taos and forget about the goddamned snow. Forget about the planning and the scheming, too, and fear of stuff that hasn’t happened. The most important thing right now is my honey’s sweet hot face. I kissed her when she staggered from the bedroom in the pre-dawn gray and know whereof I speak.
Good job turning things around. With lows like these, there has to be some some highs coming along. Soon, I hope.
[Edited] This kind of writing might make little sense. I don’t know very many other idiots who put themselves through stuff like this. We probably don’t gather in large herds.
Yeah. Fear is my bugbear, too. I avoid it as much as possible, but I would have to stay off of the computer all together to really get any peace. I have been forcing myself to read an actual book and do some actual writing this week. That has really helped me adjust to my winter in a tiny trailer in the north (more north than Arkansas, at least) without a wood stove, which I have been blessed to nearly always have nearly my entire life. So every time you talk about your stove and your pinion pine, or show us a picture of it, I love that.
Over the years, certain fabrics and objects in the room have absorbed a darkening layer of soot. So there’s that, and let’s not think about our lungs. Oops. But I totally agree. I wouldn’t know how to feel warm without a stove to stand beside.
I just thought of something – you have not been able to go on your hikes. Could you possibly go walking on snowshoes, around your neighborhood (without getting attacked by those dogs)! It sounds like you are getting plenty of exercise shoveling. Getting snowed and mudded in causes cabin fever and makes people stir crazy (feels like jail). Wouldn’t it be great if you could snowshoe over to a friend’s house and play some music?
The snow is everywhere but melting in the sun. There must have been around fifteen inches on our hillside. It’s settled lower now from melting, but it’s still around. Very icy by the shady front door, that kind of thing. The road is only muddy now and dreadfully cratered with at least two “lakes.” So the snowshoe gig is out. 🙂
We’re getting out now, and of course we have new tires. The road is awful, but we won’t get stuck unless it snows real hard again. What might not come through these posts, however, is that it’s really just our road. Just two or three hundred yards of dirt with a couple of ninety-degree turns, so bad that this stuff happens. Beyond that, the county plows. It’s still dirt, but everything is fine! All the more galling, obviously.
Well, all that snow provides some great photo opportunities. More than I can say for our interminable summer heat.
Hi Carmel! Yes, it does, though I get fed up with it, too. I will say that a whole lot of snow is better than just a couple of inches. Or was! I don’t want that to happen again this year. Once for spectacle and getting beat up is enough.
You made me recall. On a winter’s day, I slid into a snow bank with the car going to town, and got stuck about a half mile from my house. I was so furious, I could have waited for someone to come along. After throwing my fit, I bundled my kids up and walked home with a 2 year old on my hip and 5 year old bouncing along by my side. My husband came home and he said, Where’s the car? I said you can go take a hike and get it. Sometimes snow just beats you down, even if you want to you can’t escape. I’m in Texas, and tonight we had another ice storm. At least having a fire is nice when the lights go out. Cabin fever is here to stay.
“Sometimes snow just beats you down, even if you want to you can’t escape.” You got that right. What a great description of your mishap. Do I ever understand.
Taos is already where the imagined bottom of most places is. There is something real about having to deal directly with the elements. Yes, its true, real is usually not something to look forward to. But after the helpless outrage doesn’t it feel good to know you survived another bout with nature. After all, survival isn’t guaranteed. Also, at our age its nice to discover that you can do what you have to do.