This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for February 25, 2021, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.
When I first began writing my column some thirty years ago for the old East Bernard Tribune (now, Express), I decided to call it “Images,” for several reasons. Ideas came to me in the form of visual images flickering through my mind. Not being very aural, I would “see” rather than “hear,” but not words, — images. When you “hear,” you create music; when you “see,” you create poetry. Or newspaper columns.
So, the winter storm hit last week, the likes of which I have never seen before in Texas, and I am 86 years old. Throughout the time of snow and sleet, icicles and thermometer drops, the visual effects were hauntingly beautiful, yet, in ways, eerie! Such visuals, followed by loss of electricity, thus heat and lights, loss of hot water, and brutally cold inside the house, were traumatizing!
Instead of snowy, wintry images triggering a flow of words, I was initially too stunned to write last week’s column. Finally, I was able to put some words on paper, but there were no “images” coming forth, in spite of the snowflakes and the trees developing beautiful winter coats. The feeling inside me was fear and anxiety and anger about the power outage that threatened our very lives.
When it was all over, and we once again had heat and hot water, with temps rising above freezing and the internet back on, I spent some time looking at the pictures of snowscapes and wintry ice scenes my friends posted on Facebook. For the first time, I saw these images of the winter storm without fear, anxiety, and anger, but as haunting and beautiful and surreal.
My Facebook friend, who bought my grandparents’ place in Dime Box, which Grandpa and Grandma built when they retired from farming, posted pictures of the old house with more snow in the yard than I had ever seen in my lifetime, certainly not in later years when my mother owned the house and lived there. Viewing through the magic of the internet, my mother’s old quilting house, almost buried in snow, was mesmerizing. It brought back nostalgic childhood memories of my beloved Dime Box in the snow in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The memories were happy ones, — my brother and I riding our tricycles in the snow and building our first ever snowman.
During our 2021 winter storm, my grandchildren were excited about the snow, but their joy was impaired by having to go back inside to a frigid house. In contrast, my brother and I could go back inside the house and warm up by the side of a large, wood heater and the warmth of burning logs. Still, my granddaughters took enchanting pictures of East Bernard winterscapes with their cell phones.
So many snow scenes on Facebook, taken in Dime Box, in Austin, in Georgetown, in Corpus Christi, and other towns where my friends and cousins live! Most of them were stunning, especially the farms and ranches in the snow. The comments accompanying the photos described the reality of no heat or water inside the homes, thus spoiling the great beauty of these winterscapes.
The most hauntingly beautiful of all the visuals was a video posted on my wall of a young German Texan playing his accordion in the snow. A strong wind was blowing the flaps of his fur-lined cap above his ears, his face red from the icy wind. His body swayed in rhythm with the gypsy-like music he was playing, a hauntingly beautiful tune I did not recognize, — a melody that would have fit perfectly as background music for visuals of the wintry steppes of Siberia. I love the accordion (its music is in my DNA), but I have never heard anything as spellbinding as this! Nor seen anything!
The accordionist was standing alone on an almost endless field or prairie covered with snow, a barbed wire fence visible in the distance. The sound of the wind. The sight of the wind blowing the man’s coat and cap. The almost eerie whiteness of the snow. The solitude. The haunting sound of the accordion . . .
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired WCJC teacher, a retired LCMS pastor, and the author of two books, Open Prairies and It Must Be the Noodles.