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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Freeze Frame

Air Date: Week of

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Writer Brent Runyon emptied the contents of his car trunk onto his driveway the morning of the snowstorm of 2003. When he got around to trying to retrieve it all, it was under a thick layer of ice. His sudden passion to have back his junk surprised him.


ROSS: The snowstorm that blanketed the Northeast a few weeks ago brought predictable chaos, thanks to several feet of snow, but it had an unintended consequence for writer Brent Runyon.

RUNYON: I’m a packrat, or more accurately, a car rat. Ever since I moved into an apartment that wasn't big enough to hold all my worldly belongings, my car has become a kind of second home. In it I carry the things I might need at a moment's notice, things that amuse me, and things I can't be bothered to throw out. And because I'm not often called upon to transport large amounts of people or goods across state lines, I hardly ever get around to cleaning the damn thing.

The other week, though, my job required me to empty my trunk on short notice. And because the notice was so short, and the task so huge, the contents of my trunk wound up on the driveway. I thought, well that's all right, I'll be home in a few hours and I'll pick it up then. A few hours and two feet of snow later, that plan had to be delayed.

Now, it's a week later, and the snow has finally melted enough for me to attempt an excavation project. But when I went and started hacking into the ice with a shovel, I realized that the ice gets pretty thick when you leave it alone for too long. And the things underneath it, they take on some added significance.

I felt like an archeologist digging in some ancient ruins, except instead of a sarcophagus I found an old Johnny Cash CD. I didn't even know I like Johnny Cash. There was a video copy of Rocky that the ice had had its way with. The poor thing had warped Sylvester Stallone's face, and now he looked like Eric Stoltz in "Mask". Maybe I should take up boxing. Is there a gym around here?

There was a whiffle ball frozen into an ice chunk, from when I was going to become a professional whiffle ball player. Do they even have those? There's a picture of me and a girl I grew up with. I've been meaning to write her a letter. There's some paperwork from my old job and a beach towel and a book of guitar chords from when I was going to learn how to become a classical guitarist. There was a copy of “The Little Prince” in French. I was going to use it to teach myself how to speak another language. That didn't happen.

Worst of all is a copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White that my brother gave me when I started to write my book. I was going to give that a look at some point, and now it's frozen solid. Maybe I can thaw it out and learn a new approach to style.

All of it, all that stuff, now that it's frozen solid, seems somehow more important than it did before. Maybe because it's all stuff that I never got around to doing, and now it's displayed for me under a sheet of ice, like some discouraging collage of my failures. And it makes me suddenly want to listen to Johnny Cash, and learn French, and become a world-class whiffle ball player, and learn how to use a comma the right way. And maybe I will if I can just get it all thawed out and back into my trunk.

ROSS: Brent Runyon lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He's the author of “The Burn Journals”, to be published next year.



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