Winter is the king of Wisconsin.
Winter is owner of all the land and all the people, a grim, solemn magistrate with moments of mercy and warmth in modest portion, but majestic and terrible in power and authority. Trees drop their leaves in annual submission, paying tax for their lives, offering all the bright color and texture of their existence to the implacable monarch, ruler of forests and all who dwell therein. Animals disappear, virtually vanish and hide deep within their burrows and nests, breathing slowly as if in a long somnambulistic sigh until the king at his good pleasure shall avert his penetrating gaze and depart.
Water freezes and stays motionless. Great drops cling to one another in teeth of frozen, indifferent ferocity, brittle fangs the king can snap and break or melt away and reform every day. Fish and fowl are identically miraculous in their respective mediums and all life marvels in the grey light of ice sustaining air or water that life should live at all.
Any fire is a passion blazing in the chest of every furnace or fireplace and every poet, every mother, every child of earth draws near to see the comparison between what they feel within themselves and what they have kindled with the spurt of a match, a little oil or a daily crumpled sheet of news no longer news but fuel, as it may be all history is fuel for today’s fire.
Wisconsin is cold so much of the time, no one can remember or cares to count the number of those who have fallen asleep never to awaken. The cold killed them, the searing pain before the deadening numbness, the violent spasms of involuntary muscular contraction before the growing paralysis and nodding towards oblivion.
It is terrible to be so cold you remain cold within a few feet of a fire, so cold your hands are singed before the flame, but your back is chilled against the inside of your coat, so cold the seat won’t warm though you’ve been seated half an hour.
Winter is the king in Wisconsin and people who come to live pay their respects or they don’t live here at all. They make peace with the power or they perish or worse by far, live miserably wishing they were dead, living here wishing anywhere else could be home if only long enough to get warm and stay that way a while.
Cold drives some to drink and others to eat until they put on so much fat they look like whales or bears or ruffled birds, wearing the skins of animals on their heads or packed so preposterously into their clothes they resemble articulated sausages, trodding through bleak fields of snow that just won’t stop falling.
Cities pass ordinances for clearing sidewalks and thoroughfares and issue fines for non-compliance, adding to the misery. Salt is poured on open wounds as the highway department turns every street and boulevard into a briny trough of slush and rime and some vain zealots subject their bodies to the punishment of outdoor exercise for the sake of their next trip to the gym or fitting room to try on next year’s swimwear, jogging or walking or skiing, but most stay indoors to avoid provocation of the monarch who has no sense of humor, even when people fall and break a hip or ankle or wrist or arm or collide with another vehicle on the road to the tune of countless thousands in damages or personal injury or death and no one is laughing, because the King of Wisconsin is just sitting there watching it all happen.
Winter is the king in Wisconsin. Summer is his consort. Autumn is a knave and Spring a jester. Winter is king and his nights and days will suffer you to pay allegiance or suffer all the indignation of an offended sovereign.
He watched Paul Bunyan and the Blue Ox Babe come and go.
Who the hell are you?