On sleet

Sleet is one of those easy metaphors for the difficulties life drops on your head: frozen rain. Walking in the sleet this afternoon, I was reminded that you cannot only not predict what might happen at any given moment, but that life is a tenuous adventure at best. Sleet stings as it hits your face, cold and icy. In vain, you put up your hands to block this icy sand that hits your tender skin. Sleet is anti-aesthetic. Snow gently falls on valley and field, horse and rider, but sleet just piles up in the corners like so many dead crickets. Sleet is death-like, the bottom pit of winter. It freezes on your windshield, turns into shiny ice on overpasses, turns steps into a death trap. Whatever is bad and evil and uncomfortable about winter is embodied in those stone-hard pellets of ice that tumble aimlessly through the sky and hit you on the head. Sleet seems to be an outcast of Hell, even unworthy of one of Dante’s circles. Cars spin madly out of control, people slip and slide wildly in a surrealistic comic ballet, and your tulips develop a shiny death glaze that will leave them brown and wilted. The birds hide, the peach blossoms fall off, and the squirrels sleep the sleep of the just plain tired.