Saturday, May 10, 2014



Is that a bud on the Chicago Hearty Fig Or Are You Just Happy To See Me? An Ode to Spring!

Because we are survivors, we survived this winter that just would not end.

It was the worst on record, the worst for everything,
for too much snow, for ice, for wind, for bitter temperatures
for dry skin, for watery eyes and dizziness that would not yield even to

I came to despise the perky weather women with their dire weather warnings and their
charts and their breathy rants on covering up and staying inside and hiding and turning
away from the outdoors of life.

If it was so bad, why were they pursing an eternal quest for backdrop? Highway overpasses, a lot. Downtown streets. Anywhere snow looked bad and people looked
miserable. What do they know? I stopped watching. Just as easy to follow it all on an iPhone.

I been some places, you know?

Red Square, 1977

In a Russia so cold the snow evaporated after it fell and formed fog that became
a dust-like ice that covered everything and sucked every drop of humidity from the
apartment to the frigid window where it caked thick as a frozen pond, but vertical.

So cold that it became hard to breathe, hard to walk, hard to think, hard to write.
Teletype keys so gooey and slow cables could not be sent. Frozen tea in a cup on
a windowsill that framed an endless, unyielding gray, frightening, depressing,
heart-breaking winter.

In Siberia I saw pike hard as baseball bats resting on the frozen rivers just a few
minutes after they were snared by ageless, wrinkled old men with grand fishing skills and blood that pumped on at 50 below.  A friend cooked a pike for me. She thawed it in the bathtub and snapped its guts out like they were made of plastic then, using its needle teeth,  clamped the big fish into a circle. Onions, white potatoes in the center.

I don't remember her.

I don't remember how it tasted, only how it looked.

A pike donut.

Moscow was exciting, with its Communists and its spies and its long-legged ballerinas with promise in their eyes and deceit in their hearts. I loved the place almost as much as I hated it. Not like winter here, because of the unique first shot of vodka feeling caused by being watched all the time. Dangerous.  Exothermic. I miss that fear. I miss that place. I miss that time.

Here? Just cold beyond patience in the land where you can always get anything you want, but not a change in the weather. You have to get into a plane and chase it.

For a while, I was sick. I was afraid it would not stop. My knees hurt. My back hurt. I felt so old, such a betrayal delivered by the simple passing of time. Fear of steps. What the hell happened to the bold me that used to be?

These were my racing thoughts as I wandered out into the back yard on this perfect May afternoon, feeling healthy with my dog scampering around in the yard and my wife working her diligent, patient ways with plants.

My father's day fig. A great gift from my son.

Did it make it through the winter?

It was so robust last year. A dozen fresh figs, delicious beyond description.

Was that dead, too?

My wife called me.

She pointed to tiny green buds on the beaten brown limbs.

What was buried by winter was coming back to life.

We are all like that.



  1. You surely are a survivor. You've survived childhood,the teen years, Russia,parenthood, and so much more. And your writing talent continues to grow.

  2. Great essay, Charlie..."long-legged ballerinas with promise in their eyes and deceit in their hearts." I love that