The snow didn't stick, of course. Afterwards, the day after the snowfall, the weather warmed up and stayed that way for a couple of days, but then a front moved in and we had a serious ice storm last night--sleet coming down and freezing to everything for hours on end. It's hard to get around campus now, because the roads are slick, and we lost a couple of trees up in the woods, plus some branches off a few of the sugar maples, but everything is so pretty. The sun is out now, and all the twigs on all the trees and bushes are completely circled in ice, just surrounded, and all of it is sparkling and glowing and the ice on the ground is white and crunchy like some kind of sugary snow. I expect it will start melting soon, but for now it's beautiful.
It's interesting to think that because we live here on campus the way we do, we're free to enjoy it. I understand that a lot of people in the outside world are without power, a really dangerous thing for those who heat and cook with electricity--I know some of our neighbors are not on the town water system and they depend on electricity to pump their well water. Some of the roads are closed, and probably the others should be. A lot of folks can't go to work, kids can't go to school, it's a big mess and a serious hardship. Except for us. We generate our own electricity, and even if we lost that I'm not sure we'd care, because we use so little. Our wood and our food is close at hand. We don't have anywhere we need to go.
I'm thinking of the others, though. Not so much my parents, which is embarrassing--I've called them and they're fine, and that's basically all I need to know--but Allen, Kit, Joy, and Sarah are not on campus right now. They're out in the world where ice storms are a serious inconvenience or worse, and they're stuck out there, because of the roads. They couldn't come to campus if they wanted to. It's not that I'm worried, exactly--I'm sure they're alright--it's that it seems unfair they should have to cope with a difficulty that is so obviously unnecessary. The way we live here--self-sufficient, but connected to the world when we want to be--seems so self-evidently better.
Rick had his last "shelter night" last night, meaning that Charlie made him spend the night outside with nothing except what he could gather and what he might normally have with him for a walk in the woods. I say Charlie "made" him, but of course, Rick could have refused. Charlie wouldn't want anyone to do anything just because he said so. But of course Rick did not refuse.
Rick and I are not in the same dorm--he is in Snake--so I didn't know about this until this morning when Rick walked into the Great Hall around breakfast time, coming in from outdoors and missing his oilskin poncho.
"I used my poncho to waterproof my shelter," he explained. "It froze solid overnight and I couldn't get it free this morning. I'll get it when the ice melts." He set about wolfing down scrambled eggs, re-stoking the fire within himself. Staying warm takes a lot of calories.
"Did you get any sleep?" I asked him. I know he often sleeps poorly when the weather is bad, and I couldn't imagine him lying down inside a shelter small enough for a poncho to cover.
"None at all," he answered. And indeed, almost as soon as he was done eating, his head started to bob, the way people's heads do when they fall asleep sitting up, jerk awake, and sleep again.
"Why don't you go to bed?" I suggested. I meant that he should go to his own room--he still has one in his dorm, even though he hasn't spent much time in it this year. But he responded by lying down on the floor where he was, on a sheepskin in front of the fire. Within a minute he was obviously asleep. I took a blanket from the couch and covered him up.
I was trying to figure out whether to leave him there--I thought maybe he might get stepped on if he were alone, he kind of looked like a pile of blankets with a pair of feet sticking out the end--when Greg's cat, who usually ignores everybody except Greg, ambled over. The animal sniffed Rick's hair and appeared to consider--his tail-tip twitched. Then, making up his mind, the cat climbed up over Rick and settled on his hip. Rick grunted and rolled over onto his belly, but the cat rode him like a rolling log, resettled on the man's rear, kneaded with his claws for a minute, and then curled up and went to sleep.
I just sat there, completely astounded.
Aidan walked up to me, munching ineffectively on a raw carrot.
"Doing?" he asked.
"Who, me? Or Rick?"
"Watching the cat sleep on Rick."
"Because that cat doesn't like anybody but Greg. Usually not, anyway." I suppose that was too complex for Aidan to follow, because he just stared at me for a while, chewing on his carrot.
"No; why seeping," he clarified. I suppose he meant sleeping.
"Because he's tired, I guess."
Aidan stared at me again,still chewing. I hadn't answered the right question. Or, he had another one he didn't know how to ask. So I just started talking.
"That cat likes Rick. I can tell, because cats only sleep on people they like. But I didn't know he liked Rick. It surprised me. I thought he only liked Greg."
"The floor? Yeah, the floor is a funny place for a man to sleep, huh? I guess Rick is really tired."
Aidan stood there for a while, chewing on his carrot and staring at Rick. He seems so thoughtful, but there is no way to ask what he's thinking.
"I can't wait until you really learn how to talk," I told him.
"Me!" he answered, definitively.
"Yeah, I bet you can't wait, either."
Rick groaned and rolled over again, this time onto his back. The cat fell off, then climbed back on and settled, fortunately without kneading, over Rick's groin.
"Here, let's go somewhere else so Rick can sleep, ok?" I told Aidan.
"Cawa," he said, brandishing his carrot.
"Yes, but bring your carrot over here, ok?"
"I should bring your carrot?"
"No, you. Some?"
"I should have some of your carrot?"
"Ok, thanks, but over here."
It's funny. A year ago, Aidan was a toddler. Or, less than a year, I guess. I'm thinking of that party right before Brigid. Anyway, he was a toddler. He could walk and eat real food and talk a little. Now, he's still a toddler. He can walk and eat real food and talk a little. It's like nothing has changed. Toddlers take a long time. And yet, "talk a little" means something completely different than it did before. Inside the sameness is a world of difference.