Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Sitting here beside me on the corner of the desk is a mug of HOT appled cider, with one of those full-length cinnamon sticks poking out from below the surface, acting as a stirring rod. The steaming clouds of the cinnamon and apple are billowing like the sweet puffs of a tobacco pipe smoker's carved tool. It all fills the air, but the feet are still as cold as they were outside, where the sidewalks and driveway needed shoveling and they weren't going to clear themselves. The pile of dampened extra layers of clothing is down on the floor and something like the Minnesota band Northern Howl is playing sufficiently loud in the background and there's a twinge of regret that any of that relocated snow was ever moved, tossed to the side as if it were unwelcome and nasty. That snow was meant to be untouched is what it seems like Northern Howl is saying, in not so many words. But I imagine that they'd be mad about it all - this whole thing. It feels as if what has just happened is that a pox has been placed over the wonderland that dropped from the sky - still unblemished by the lightly nubbed touches of a rabbit's hopping paws and clean enough to scoop up and still taste. You see, this band doesn't know that they're doing it, but they discourage marking up that white stuff that gets unfairly bad-mouthed, mostly because it just means the months of stingingly cold temperatures are not going away. These five young men and women can only work when they have a fresh and un-tampered with scene to look out upon and belong to. One pictures them needing to work from inside a snowglobe - a glass enclosure with an endless supply of hot chocolate and cider, scarves aplenty, hats, mittens, one-size-fits-all parkas, snow pants, sleds and cross country skis at the ready should the creative process stall and there needs to be a new buzz to plug into. If just peering out at an expanse of snowy hills and ravines, a creek that's come to a complete stand-still and a setting that's in hibernation isn't working any longer, then putting some rosiness into the cheeks and freezing off the bottoms of their ear lobes and the tips of their noses should about do the trick to spur along some of this wintry music - of those magical snow crystals, of which none are alike. It sounds as if they huddle out in a snowy field - as close as they can be so as to still feel the warmth from each other - and they just play for the snow, for anything that's still out there and able to survive without furnace heat. They keep their hands busy for those acoustic guitars and banjos. They don't let the trumpet sit so long that it freezes up, they make sure that the piano is there and then they just let their voices go, answering to one another in scented fires and with tender sails. All together, it sounds as if this were a special meeting of a secret society that doesn't want to be found out about - meeting outdoors on the briskest of nights, in the dead of dawn and just creating a little ball of fire around themselves that melts the ground green beneath them. As long as they're the ones disturbing the snow, it's fine. It's their snow.
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