Friday, March 7, 2014

The Blizzard Chronicles Continued

The Blizzard Chronicles Continued
The cold earth slept below
Above the cold sky shone;
And all around,
With a chilling sound,
From caves of ice and fields of snow
The breath of night like death did flow
Beneath the sinking moon.
~~ Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lines: The cold earth slept below

Long before the moon had a chance to sink into the abyss beyond the horizon, low-lying snow-clouds rudely concealed her majestic reign over the landscape.  Along with the atmosphere turning much colder, the snow-clouds hovered closer to the ground mimicking early morning fog of late-spring except being far much thicker, it felt like you needed to slice it with a machete or a samurai sword to navigate through, barring possession of Harry Potter’s Sorcerer’s Stone.

As the fog thickened, an inordinate drop in ground surface temperature ensued.  The thermometer outside the kitchen window registered as low as - 12°C.  While the HVAC system in the house was fully functional, I could just enjoy the scenery with a somewhat hidden guilty sense of Schadenfreude since I did not have to venture outside the glass doors if I did not want to indulge my sense of adventure.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
~~John Greenleaf Whittier, Snow-Bound
Then the wages for my Schadenfreude were delivered in spades.  One fateful night, unbeknownst to us, the fan which reliably pumps the hot air from the attic to circulate it to the rest of the house overheated.  The thermostat was set to auto.  But the sensor was somehow disabled.  The cool off cycle ceased being triggered and the motor burnt to a crisp.
Mercifully, the incident only blew a fuse in the main box but kept the boiler fully functional.  The baseboards remained warm.  But without the air circulation mechanism everything else in the room got as cold as a puppies nose.  My stack of bottled Ylang ylang-scented Banaba extra virgin coconut oil congealed into the consistency of lard or refrigerated bacon fat.
The thermometer reading outside the kitchen window hovered in the range -12°C to +8°C.  Downstairs, the inside thermometer readout dropped from +25°C to +15°C.  Upstairs the readings dropped from +28°C to +18°C, give or take a degree.  A ten-degree drop in room temperature presented a complete shock to my thermostatic senses and my ambient relationship with my emotional disposition. 
Deployment of portable space heaters and a heating pad under the comforter helped some but not enough to ease the nagging feeling of a drastic reversal in fortunes which reverberated in the inner chambers of my reverie.
To fully capture the entire emotional gestalt into a coherent narrative, I ventured to find the exact antonym of Schadenfreude.  To my utter disappointment and near defeat, the only citation I could find was an old National Post blog from which I quote at length:
. . .A syndrome that has no name in English. We all know it; we just have no word for it.  It’s a condition for which even the Germans have no word, and Germans have a word for everything.
 For instance, they have a word for the opposite condition, a notorious word that other languages borrowed and English speakers often use without translation:  The word “Schadenfreude” describes the sublime euphoria that suffuses a person when he hears about the misfortune of another.
Here is why I only conceded a “near defeat.”  Based on my admittedly rudimentary familiarity with the anatomy of the German language, I reverse-engineered the contextual meaning of Schadenfreude to arrive at its exact single-word opposite which should be “Verstohlenmitleid.”  It literally means “furtive compassion.” Just nota bene, for posterity, you read it here first and you learned it first from me.
So now instead of simply being immersed in Schadenfreude for the comfort and convenience that my modest and humble abode provide, I am simultaneously engulfed by the overwhelming Verstohlenmitleid on spying anybody brave the frigid landscape.  Ditto on hearing my neighbor cardinals peek and peck their beaks at the window pane from the evergreen holly athwart the garage roof-awning.  Unbridled by conscience or care, I can celebrate with Keats the anticipation of spring:
O thou whose face hath felt the Winter’s wind,
Whose eye has seen the snow-clouds hung in mist,
And the black elm tops ‘mong the freezing stars!
To thee the spring will be a harvest time.
~~John Keats, The Winter’s Wind
It took all of ten days to order the parts and schedule the electrician to install the motor and get ventilation humming again.  It is absolutely amazing how we take for granted the equilibrium of normalcy if it were immune from the perturbation of the unpredictable.  Being jolted once in a while by the unexpected adds spice to the humdrum quietus of accustomed tranquility.
With the Ides of March almost upon us, I do not anticipate any further frigid renderings from the precipitate wrath of Chionê, daughter of Boreas and Oreithyia.  But then again, time was, in the last dozen years that we sojourned in this neck of the woods, there was at least one Thanksgiving Day and one Easter Sunday (not in concurrent season) when snow buried the grass by a couple of inches.
The leaves of grass just started to peek through the compacted frigid mantle.  So, with an unadulterated glee and sympathy I appreciate in awe and wonderment the alacrity and condign composure with which the Fairy Queen endure to abjure connivance with the vagaries that mother nature could conjure.  Consequently, Verstohlenmitleid would afford me the luxury to resonate with Spenser in praise of tenacity and formidable resourcefulness:
Streight, bitter storms and balefull countenance,
  That makes them all to shiuer and to shake:
  Rayne, hayle, and snowe do pay them sad penance,
  And dreadfull thunder-claps (that make them quake)
With flames & flashing lights that thousand changes make.
~~Edmund Spenser, The Mutabilitie Cantos from The Faerie Queene


  1. Spenser also paid homage to the hubris which propel men into action:
    Proud Change (not pleasd, in mortall things,
    beneath the Moone, to raigne)
    Pretends, as well of Gods, as Men,
    to be the Soueraine.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. It was only edited and republished. I could not find an edit function so I had to delete and republished below.

  3. In Greek Mythology, Khione, daughter of Boreas and Oreithyia, was the goddess of snow (khiôn).