BY DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI NEWS AND COMMENTARY
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THE WEEKEND EDITION FEB. 17-19, 2017) — THE PLANET had a fun exchange Thursday with our good friend Mike Ward. Our Facebook chat centered on the topic of winter. Mike initiated it with this posting:
WARD: There’s a difference between enjoying snow and wanting to be in a perpetual storm.
PLANET: I have fallen back in love with winter, the kind of love I had for it as a kid, when it meant King of the Hill, sliding, snow forts, snow football, and Kill The Guy With The Ball.
WARD: We called it Cream Ball at Allende. Every neighborhood had a version of kill the guy with the ball.
PLANET: Yeah. Maybe the best winter game of all time. The only game where the entire rule book and the name of the game are one and the same!
WARD: We played year round. Really the perfect sport for elementary school boys. I was a runner, not surprisingly, so if I could survive the first five seconds without getting sacked I could run around the group taunting them indefinitely.
PLANET: We, too, had speed and elusiveness, and did well in the sport. It was the perfect revenge vehicle. Today, you’d probably be suspended for playing it, but back then we didn’t live in protective bubbles. We actually had a childhood.
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The exchange spurred a day of reflection, encouraged by a walk in the sunny, windy cold.
Why have we come to enjoy winter so much? For the decade of the 1980s, our winters were spent down south in Winter Haven, FL, during our days as a baseball writer. THE PLANET wrote several baseball tomes as well as news stories and the taping of radio interviews that we sold to a consortium of media, typically smaller newspapers and radio stations that could not afford to send their own reporters south. It made for a good living.
We chose Winter Haven as our base since it was the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox and also because it was centrally located in the middle of the Floridian peninsula, making it the best disembarking point from which to cover the other Florida camps. We loved every drop is this life, getting paid to winter in Florida and hang out with Major League ballplayers.
Then we moved on to to other excitements.
Today, we eschew the invitation to spring training. First, we are no longer baseball fans in the old sense. Being on the inside of MLB as it morphed from innocence into Big Business with an average salary approaching $4 million a year did a lot to dissuade us from the romance of the game on the big-league level. Of course, minor league ball is another matter, as our regular attendance at Triple A games suggests. Second, our fan kicks come from football and have since the Super Bowl was renamed The New England Patriots Invitational.
Thus we find ourselves in The Berkshires during these long days of antiseptic cold, loving every minute. Back to the question: Why do we love it once again? We no longer go sliding. We don’t build snow forts, and, sadly, there’s no more Kill The Guy With The Ball. And you know what? Having done those once, we don’t need them again, which has created space for other winter enjoyments. Let us explain:
COME TO THE QUIET — Winter brings peace, quiet, and even silence. It’s like an empty schoolyard at twilight, most everywhere, especially when there’s weather. Nature, ever smarter and more intelligent than people, retreats into itself, a hibernation no hungry nations can tread down (Keats). People cannot keep pace with the protraction. In winter, nature and animals outpace us with their leisurely sedations. You can have candlepins and fluorescence. We’ll take roasting sausage and Italian bread on an outdoor campfire.
A REASONABLE PACE — Have you noticed how time-starved we have become? THE PLANET sees this all the time with students, friends, colleagues, forced as they are to keep pace with their “smart” phones. Winter, if you will but allow, offers the perfect excuse to set aside the mad rush and practice more deliberate celestial chores. Read a book. Go for a walk. Do some writing. Go skating. Shovel some snow. Stare at the night sky. The down-tempo will do you good.
CULTIVATED WARMTH — Cold provides the perfect contrast with the warmth we all require. That parka covers the frail deeds that shiver in the tumbled temperature. Your hat secludes your body’s warmth, evening out the unequal laws of hot and cold. Your gloves keep the hands out of trouble. Those boots from Clarke’s make tracking through the snow fun. Inside, what’s better than a soft, illumined glow as outside snowbanks drift?
Winter, we hope, will stay for at least another month. Winter, give us your snow, your cold, your remnant rose that shall will surely bloom in spring.
With that, THE PLANET opens The Comment Line. Have a great weekend, everybody.
“In the depth of winter I finally learned there is in me an invincible summer.” — Albert Camus
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.
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