The Polar Vortex

The Polar Vortex
by Gary D. Grossman

has arrived, sans invite, like a wad of Juicy Fruit gum on the sole of your shoe, or worse, still-soft dog shit, and after insulating our quartet of faucets, inside and out, I asked them to drip small streams of New Year’s emotions. Have I mentioned I live in Georgia, famous for heat and humidity, though most folks realize not, that our state has both mountains, and rolling ridges extending south like mid-Atlantic breakers for 150 miles, and although these zones are as conformist about climate as a 5’10” eighth grader, they also can be cold as your unpartnered aunt, the one with snowy hair, who still visits every other year. And so today begins the weather we’ve been warned about; wind-chills in the negative teens, a temper-tantrum of frigidity that will last most of a week, and after a short jog that peeled the top layer of skin off my cheeks, I’m pulling oak splits off our garage wood racks, and warming our living room with the fireplace. Don’t get me wrong, our heat is fine, it’s just this winter my spirits have been a falling barometer, part retirement, part weather, and though the Vortex can’t really be called a storm—just wind and cold so intense you slapped your momma when she said “go outside”, but the fire does glue a nice veneer of aroma and visuals on the living room, and even the air seems happier and less prone to shattered emotions.

Our feeders are full, and new suet blocks hang from both a wrought-iron pole and the young dogwood; the front yard now a whirlpool of birds, tolerant mourning doves and white-throated sparrows, cranky Carolina wrens, boss mockingbirds and the every Thursday Red-Shouldered hawk—predator glaring from afar. A mystery why some species are bullies at the feeders, whereas others step aside to make room for a new bird. Some granivores are self-centered, yet others, good sharers—little rhyme or reason, and the downy and hairy woodpeckers tolerate everyone; which, given this holiday season, brings me to Rodney King’s salient question “can’t we all get along”.


Gary Grossman, Professor Emeritus of Ecology, University of Georgia, has poems, short fiction and essays in 47 literary reviews. His work has been nominated for inclusion in The Best Small Fictions and Pushcart Prize for 2023. For 10 years Gary wrote “Ask Dr. Trout” for American Angler Magazine. Gary’s poetry books Lyrical Years (2023, Kelsay), What I Meant to Say Was… (2023, Impspired Press), and graphic memoir My Life in Fish—One Scientist’s Journey… (2023, Impspired) all may be purchased from Amazon.

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