Journal of a Sabbatical

February 5, 2001

a winter idyll

Today's Reading: The Island of Penguins by Cherry Kearton, Winter: from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau edited by H.G.O. Blake, The Future of Success by Robert Reich, A Cultural History of Tibet by H. Richardson and D. Snellgrove

2001 Book List
Plum Island Bird List


So after reading Snowbound, which is subtitled A Winter Idyll, last night I came to the conclusion that it's not really an idyll at all! 

a short poem or prose work describing a simple, pleasant scene of rural, pastoral, or domestic life; the literary tradition of the term goes back to Theocritus, who described pastoral life in Sicily for sophisticated readers of Alexandria.

I gained this insight when Nancy asked me: "Would this be the same poem without the not unfeared half welcome guest?"

No, it wouldn't. Harriet Livermore's presence around the hearth brings in the scary outside world live and in the flesh. The outside world with its perils is surprisingly present in this supposedly idyllic scene. The stories told 'round the fireplace include references to the slave trade ( "A chief of Gambia's golden shore"), shipwreck and the threat of cannibalism (Chalkley's journal), Indian attacks and scalp wounds ... It wasn't just snow that drifted in through the cracks, it was the outside world. There's so much more going on than a pleasant domestic scene in this poem. No doubt some scholar could explain to me why I'm all wet in thinking it's not an idyll, but this is a journal entry not a masters thesis.

Today's snowstorm here in real life is no subject for an idyll either.

The snow was supposed to start at noon, but I wasn't taking the forecasts seriously. The last couple of storms have not been nearly as bad as the weather guys made them out to be. So I took my time drinking coffee at Starbucks and going to the bank and the laundromat and the travel agent. At about 2:00 I walked out of the travel agency with my Budapest tickets into a raging snowstorm. By the time I got home, like 7 minutes later, I was finally convinced this was a real storm.

It snowed hard and fast and having plenty of groceries on hand and no place I had to be, I enjoyed spending the afternoon and evening "enclosed in a tumultuous privacy of storm" (Emerson, The Snow Storm).


Journal Index



Copyright © 2001, Janet I. Egan