The Winter of Dis-Content

by Abbye Meyer | 3/5/02 6:00am

When I was trying to get into my car the other day, I slipped on some ice and slid under the vehicle. Of course I did this, because it seems that's all I'm allowed to do anymore: embarrass myself, hurt myself and then talk about doing these stupid things all of the time.

But as I picked myself up from underneath the car, luckily not stained in oil or losing blood from any major lesions, I thought, "Of course I fell. It's winter." But then I couldn't figure out what that meant at all. Either the fall was awful and upsetting because winter can be full of ice and coldness and pain, or it was funny and expected because winter is so crappy that I was already anticipating the bad. And maybe that makes winter good, because if you're set out on a path of falls anyway, you might as well slide under a car and end up with a fun story to tell.

Due to such incidents, this winter has recently been, for me, the Winter of Stupidity, the Winter of Falls and the Winter of Over-Analysis. It's the Winter of Car Trouble, the Winter of Ice and Rain and Mud and Slush. It's the Winter of Instability.

Two months ago, with the birth of a very unlikely intramural basketball team (fielded mainly by the traditionally unathletic Foley House residents), the teammates and I proclaimed this the Winter of Fitness. We exercised, practiced plays and competed once a week. And just as all endearing underdogs must, we even made it to the finals of the playoffs.

But I could also say it's been the Winter of Cheese, for I've rarely eaten more (even branching out beyond old favorites like extra-sharp cheddar to new gems like smoked gouda cubes). It's the Winter of Not Doing Homework, the Winter of Hating Creativity, of Hating Theory. It's the Winter of Bowling.

For some, it's been the Winter of Tragedy. It's the Winter of Sickness. The Winter of Pink Eye (for most of you, at least -- I, of course, anticipated the epidemic and avoided public computers like the plague that they apparently are).

A friend of mine began a campaign for the Winter of Physical Comedy, asserting that we, as a society, don't do enough funny things. We talk about funny things, discuss what funny things could be done, but we never do them. So I tried to fall down stairs a few times for her, and I dropped some food on someone's head, but the attempts only left me bruised and nearly punched in the face.

It could be the winter of anything, but it must be the winter of something. For if the Dartmouth area has taught us nothing else, it certainly has taught us to define our seasons to an excess, to compartmentalize them into contained little units that organize our memories and refuse continuity.

Each term, each season has a theme. And winter's, I think, offers the most variety, the most possibility. For when the world is barren, the air is freezing and the ground is slippery, we're left to make due with what we have, left to create our own warmth and our own themes.

Dartmouth winters, just slightly over two months, cram a full season into a severed and shortened quarter. They're so busy, so fast, that they demand full attention. In winter, we must live for the now, so we better make that now worth living.

And it's because of this, I think, that I consider winter my favorite term. Not because I like the weather (I don't), or because I like sledding (I don't) or because I like mid-afternoon sunsets (you get the idea). I like it because the expectations are minimal, the bad inevitable and the good is amazing.

Fewer people are on campus in the winter, so it's more fun to run into someone nice. Blankets and hot chocolate are only appreciated in winter. Sunny days mean more when surrounded by blizzards. Only in the winter is it funny to see people wearing sandals and shorts, or hear southern-types cry about wearing sleeves, deeming them a primary cause of claustrophobia (I actually know someone like this). In winter, it's okay to eat lots of cheese, to lounge around and watch movies. It's even acceptable (almost) to drive to class.

Of course, it's always possible for winter to breed sadness and loneliness. Tragedies can become longer and more silent in the winter. It's risky to be here, to be anywhere during these months.

So maybe winters are like popping ears. Like so many others, I've been sick with a cold, unable to breathe or speak, and even less able than usual to hear (as my ears are eternally plugged). Thus, I hold my nose and blow, in hopes that I'll feel that gentle little pop to open up sinuses and clear my head. Sometimes it works, and other times it just plugs the ears even more.

Still, I'll take the chance. I'll keep holding, blowing and hoping for the pop. Because when I'm already so stuffed up anyway, when the winters are already so bleak, it doesn't seem to change much when things get a little worse. But when they get better, there's just nothing better. Nothing better at all than the pop of an ear.