Sunday, January 17, 2016

Cold Wind and Snow

The temperatures are supposed to dip into single digits tonight. All the dogs and cats are inside, the faucets are dripping and the fire turned up. The wind is howling around outside, blowing the little bit of snow we got today around like bits of stinging sand.

It's funny how nights like this affect me. I find it difficult to go to bed, and when I finally turn in I have trouble sleeping. I have this feeling of needing to be up to watch over the house, nurse it through the night and the cold. I know that in actuality I can do nothing that we haven't already done but still I feel watchful and worrying.

Things could happen. The gas could freeze off as it does at least once each winter. The electricity could go out as it does pretty often, sometimes for no apparent reason. Water lines, even though we've protected them as best we can, might freeze. Any or all of these things could happen, but me being awake cannot prevent any one of them.

As I sat on the couch watching the fire and listening to the wind I was reminded of the old song, Cold Rain and Snow.

So I will circle around the rooms one more time, make sure the doors are shut tight, the lights are off and the faucets dripping, and then pull on my flannel gown and tuck in beside my sleeping husband. Eventually I will sleep, morning will come and whatever happened, well, it happened.

Image from Wikipedia, by Ivan Bilbin
This cold night reminds me of the Russian folktale about the old widower who had a lovely daughter. He remarried to a woman who also had a daughter, and as these old stories go, the woman treated her stepdaughter badly. She was kind and loving to her own girl, but the other girl was made to do all of the work and given little to eat. The stepmother decided one day that she could stand the girl no longer, and told her husband, "Take her out into the forest, and leave her there." Now it was winter and the girl would surely freeze. The old widower knew this and he wept bitter tears, but his wife's tongue was so harsh that he finally gave in. He left his daughter deep in the forest and hurried away, never looking back because he could not bear knowing she would freeze to death.

The girl sat there in the snow, not knowing what to do. Suddenly Morozko (Father Frost) came upon her, and asked if she was warm. She said that she was, even though she was terribly cold. Morozko left but came back with silver and gold and sable furs for her to wear. He returned twice more with more jewels.

The following day the stepmother told her husband, "Go, bring back your daughter's body for she is surely frozen to death by now." The old man went, and was overjoyed to find his daughter not only alive but wrapped in rich fur and surrounded by jewels. So of course, when the stepmother saw this, she told him, "Take MY daughter into the woods so that she may return with riches too!" The husband did her bidding, but when Morozko came and asked if the girl was cold, she was rude and shouted at him, 'Of course I am cold! Curse you, Morozko!"

The following day the old widower returned to fetch his stepdaughter home. You can imagine how the mother wept and wailed to see her own daughter, frozen stiff by the angry Father Frost.

And since we're on the topic of cold and snow, there is that cheerful (not) Appalachian ballad, Cold Rain and Snow. Here is one of the best versions of this old murder ballad which apparently was based on the true story of a man who murdered his wife because she treated him so badly.

Cheerful tales and tunes tonight! Let's end with something a little more upbeat, a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from the Poetry Foundation's website:

Image from the NASA website


Out of the bosom of the Air,
      Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
      Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
            Silent, and soft, and slow
            Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
      Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
      In the white countenance confession,
            The troubled sky reveals
            The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
      Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
      Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
            Now whispered and revealed
            To wood and field.

I hope all of you are warm and safe tonight, that the cold wind and snow stays outside your door and the fires of home burn brightly.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Nance said...

It is good to be back. I hadn't heard of Obray Ramsey but will go learn more. I am entranced by the very early old groups and recordings but the original Carter family is about the extent of what I have. It dipped to -9 here early this morning and had a high of 6 degrees. Will do it all over again tonight/tomorrow. Thanks!

annie said...

I often stay up late, and watch over our place.
Hope all goes well for you and yours.
I once saw an old movie based on your story, or very much like it, very sad I thought, but memorable.

Granny Sue said...

I had not heard of him prior to this either, Nance. Intriguing that his version of the song was the inspiration for the Grateful Dead. I think the old songs grabbed their imagination just as they have mine, but I prefer the original versions to the Dead's style.

Granny Sue said...

It was a movie once, annie! I've never seen it. There are many folktales with this same theme, although the other girl doesn't always die. Toads and Diamonds, Long Yellow Bag, Mutsmeg (although a little different in theme) are three that come immediately to mind.

Mac n' Janet said...

Good folktale for a cold day. It's chilly here, but I'm not complaining. Good weather to crochet and read.

Tipper said...

Great post! I liked thinking of you all snug in the house while the cold wind blew. And why do we all take a small piece of pleasure from those horrible tales like the Russian story LOL : ) We haven't had any snow-only the cold. You know me-I'm hoping for at least one big snow before the winter is over.

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