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It Gets Cold
Winter weather in Seoul is different from winter weather in Tolmin or in Utrecht or in Lausanne. No Mediterannean, no Atlantic, no Gulf Stream moderates the winters.
The leaves turn fiery, then fly till only the pines remain to see the grass turn pale then dust. Temperatures plummet, waters freeze, and snowflakes fall like hexagonal crystal ash.
But that is just winter.
Back in Tolmin, the cold weather came creeping in the dark. Nights grow colder, day’s sun grows wan. At last, a day comes when day’s warmth doesn’t break the ice and frost’s days are come to roost.
The cold in Seoul comes on all different.
Today, it dawned, I woke and my pocket omniscience told me 2°C and -10°C. The highs and lows of the day.
Before I left house at 9 a.m. it was already 2°C and in the sun last night’s glitter-sharp snowflakes were melting to puddles. An hour later, a wind was blown. North-easterly, cold and bitter with the fine dust of the Chinese main. Down from Mongolie and beyond Siberie it must have journeyed, from man-lack taiga to man-full factory-fields of the North Chinese Plain.
And hour by hour, the temperature dropped. By an hour past noon the melted graves of the snowflakes had become a dark ice coat on brick and stone, tarmac and grate.
It’s six of-an-evening now and only a few hours remain till the day’s cold bottoms out.
A different weather, a different kind of cold.
Little things, so unexpectedly unlike home.
The River is Gone
Now, with the sky grown heavy with charcoal-two-lungstuff and temperatures climbed higher, it’s rarely as cold as it was two decades ago.
Perhaps my memory of winter in Europe is extinct, unmoored from the to-day.
Perhaps it is not the way I wrote no more.
I wonder how it will be in two decades more, in four?
Child in Time
Born I … I don’t recollect. My earliest memories are from my third year or fourth. An impressionist dreamtime. Mother, grandmother, father, brother, sister, vague cousins, uncles, aunts, family friends. Butterfly-fried sardines during a storm, dining room lights on at noon. Beach and pines and water slide and lukewarm sea. Hill, winding path, climbing stone white, trailing moss black-green.
Later, school years, fragments, good times, bad, field trips, airplanes with air separated into two layers: cigarette-smoke-filled upper and clear-but-sock-scented lower.
Those years of elementary school formed a baseline normal, a way of the world. Gravity, time, day, night, Africa, Europe, home, dogs, beach, airplane, transition.
My teenage years were a foreign country whose passport I possessed. Confusion, loneliness, customs and traditions alien to my constitution.
So odd, to think that through all that, I nonetheless formed ideas of what was normal, of how folk and fowl and far-flung weather fared.
The brain is a normality-generating biomachine.
From a magpie-gathered bricolage of experience, it assembles a predictive model, a stable universe.
And then I wonder, how differently the cold behaves here in Seoul and I would pretend to understandings? Hubris baked in of evolution? Or some more idiosyncratic failing? I will be kind to myself and not hold myself too responsible.
It is just weather. Now learned, better stay humble.
Child in Time 2
But I wonder at our own child. What will she experience? What will he make normal? How can/will/could I contribute?
Over the last six weeks of Y’s pregnancy, watching our child develop by the videomagic of ultrasound, I’ve been humbled again and again.
I’m helpless against chance and resort to prayer, “may all go well, may all be well.” Doesn’t hurt and makes the sleep come easier.
I confront my limitations. As I could not imagine a different weather before I experienced it, I am discovering new empathies I could not countenance before I experienced my wife’s pregnancy and my (pray-all-goes-well) fatherhood.
How can I give advice and hope to help a child, when I could not even know the kind of weather I would know ten years ago?
Rhetorical question. I have some idea. I’ve had enough of bad advice and walked in circles many enough years to know a little.
True, one cannot step in the same river twice. True, perhaps the very river is gone. But perhaps the stories of how I stepped in rivers and got wet shoes would help another avoid the same and chance a mistake altogether different.
Squelch squelch squelch.
Welcome to the Year of the Black Bunny.
And through it all, the guerre in Ukraine goes on. If you feel a desire to support democracy, Europe, smaller states not getting crushed by bigger states, or even Ukraine itself all its ownsome, I encourage you to donate. There are many places you can do so. Here is one: https://u24.gov.ua/shahedhunter – a project to set up air defenses against the Iranian drones Russia is using to terror bomb Ukrainian cities and civilians and children.