Winter of my discontent: Winter afternoons like the heft of oppressive cathedral tunes


Notre Dame, December 8, 2010. Photographed by Remy De La Mauviniere.

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons —
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes —

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are.

(Emily Dickinson. Poem No. 258.)

When everything is gloomy and all the grass and crops buried under the snow, and Christmas has gone and it’s a new year, and there is nothing to look at or on which to work but your soul: this I find oppressive.

Like cathedral tunes calling me to examination of conscience before reconciliation, my least favorite sacrament. (And I’ve had more than most people. What’s got two thumbs and survived Last Rites? This guy.) In this world one of the things I particularly don’t like is taking stock and looking back, and that’s all a human can really do in the winter, traditionally. But that’s what I try to force myself to do with this journal, and is also the purpose for this Winter of my discontent theme to begin with. So I should stop looking for quotes or cute pictures with which to avoid being serious about it, and start actually fulfilling the task I set out for myself.

I feel like this is unrelated, but I had this revelation about tooth whitening the other day that turned my stomach — it is bleaching your bones. I know that we have many grooming rituals which are ridiculous when one takes the long view of humankind, rituals in which I readily participate such as make-up and hair teasing. But to bleach one’s teeth suddenly struck me as wrong on a deeper level.

Teeth are bones, and people bleach them so they will be more attractive. They want pretty bones. That is macabre and horrific and insane. What the fuck is the matter with people?

On the other hand, I would be a hypocrite not to admit that I guess I’d do it if I had the spare change. I want pretty bones as much as the next guy. I’m not a complicated conundrum, I’m just a shallow, uncertain mess.

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