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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Snow fallen on spruces

Nearly a week now after the fall, the snow still holds on to the arms of the spruce. Not all of the arms, not the upper ones from which the winds have sprayed the air in a white mist, not even the middle ones whose burdens tend to slide off in a bomb, but the lower ones only, still lowered and heavy. Spruce branches tend to sag anyway; do they now enjoy touching the ground in a continuous band of snow?

It was nearly a perfect snowfall: enough to cover most imperfections, enough to make shoveling more of a work-out than a heart attack, not so much that the hope of spring is completely obscured. And the beauty....not just the pleasing contrast between dark green and pure white, but the inner joy of bracing contrasts, purity of unself-consciousness, and thankfulness for propane. In the woods the peacefulness will be unmarred for days, possibly weeks, by plows or black stuff from cars or heavy human boots.

We have a few cedars around, but the deer nibble on them and the denuded branches aren't much good in holding the falling snow. All this points to David Guterson's first novel. Snow Falling on Cedars, a good book with lots of snow and relatively free of the black stuff of self-conscious writing. His last one (Ed King) unfortunately is a bad one.and suffers from the two-mirror syndrome: the author holds up a hand mirror to his bathroom vanity, or, on a book tour, angles the mirror on the back of the hotel bathroom door just so - to see and learn what? Nothing trenchant about reality vs fiction, or actions vs words, as perhaps he hoped or wanted to suggest ironically and insultingly to the plebeian reader, nothing just the back of his own head.

A woods in winter plays no such games. The lines are clear. Snow is, or it isn't.

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