Summer in Winter

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to have warm fingers and toes–a warmth we hardly realize until it’s not there, and in my case it hasn’t been there for days. The wind has been finding its way in through all the little gaps between the logs that make up this cabin. The cabin is full of little holes. It took months and someone six inches taller than me before I noticed them, but if I stand on my tiptoes I can clearly see “outside.” The resulting chill makes the motivation to study, well, less motivating. In an effort to keep warm, I’ve been taking my books to bed, but being all cozy and warm under layers of blankets just puts me to sleep. This has been my morning and evening dilemma of late. My afternoons, however, tell a different tale. The sensation of “summer in winter” has embraced the west coast for days–an invitation to plant myself on the deck and spend some hours of healthy studying.

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Today, while wallowing in winter’s sunshine, I recalled the first time I’d heard “summer in winter.” It was five or six year ago in Zermatt, Switzerland. March, I think, or maybe February. I’d spent the morning skiing. I remember it was warm enough to strip down to my tank top—an unusual pairing with ski boots. I probably overheard it while lounging in the sunshine at an après-ski. No, it was inside a chalet; the walls had been decorated with framed photos displaying years of healthy wealthy Swiss enjoying their days on the slopes–one of the photos was of an attractive couple wearing ski boots and little else with the gleeful caption: Summer in Winter!

Last night, I watched Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon – it focuses on the elusive nature of truth. The plot surrounds a murder investigation in which its witnesses who are called to testify each recount a completely different story. Each testimony is told so as to carefully project the storyteller’s ego in the best possible light. The viewer watches the varying tales unfold via Kurosawa’s use (for the first time in cinema) of flashback. Each flashback is shown with equal brilliance and detail so by the end we have no idea who has told the truth, which is the point of the movie. It shows us that truth is relative. Through his use of light and shadow, Kurosawa further highlights the elusiveness of truth. Much of the film is shot in the woods and shows the sun shining through the trees creating a dappling effect, perhaps a representation of good and evil and of truth and fiction.

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While walking in the woods today, I recognized a similar play of light and shadow. I thought of the fragmented nature of memory and how we attempt to connect those fragments in order to find meaning and a sense of order. We are the unreliable narrator of our own lives and we often don’t even realize it.

A film, unlike real life, can be viewed again and Rashomon (claimed by many to be one the best) is worthy of multiple viewings. A film, like life, can and should invoke contemplation: happy thinking!

And those little holes in the cabin walls? I’ve decided I like them, they let the light in.

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