Snow was general all over Portland this week. It was falling softly upon the Japanese Gardens and, further westwards, softly falling on the dark Willamette waves.
Snowstorms don’t happen very often in this part of the world. Mercifully so, as the city slides to a halt when they sweep in. Pavements are ice rinks, roads lie untreated, movement is all but impossible. It’s almost as bad as the notorious Irish ‘Big Freeze‘.
That country came to mind this morning as I lay in bed, shivering and reading “The Dead”, the short story which ends James Joyce’s’ “Dubliners”.
Its famous closing lines depict snow falling on Dublin and, as Gabriel Conroy experiences his epiphany, across the midlands to the western seaboard. The precipitation was, Richard Ellmann believed, a metaphor for human mutuality, the experience of life and of death that we all share.
Joyce’s words, like the quiet, empty streets of Portland’s ‘snowmageddon‘, are a calming break from the general run of things. And worth reading, before the Christmas rush descends.
Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, further westwards, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling too upon every part of the lonely churchyard where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.