January's arrival has some of us thinking about New Year's resolutions. Or cursing the cold. But it has essayist Peter Smith contemplating his own mortality. Mortality, and an old sofa.
Smith: There is a certain sofa in a certain living room overlooking a certain small northern Minnesota lake-a sofa I've spent quite a few winter nights on.
It's a little lumpy as sofas go. You may have a kink or two to work out in the morning. But when you lay there in the dark and watch the moon set behind the trees across the lake and listen to a sturdy little oak fire heat-ticking away in the woodstove, its worth the knots.
Sleeping there on that sofa is Minnesota at its finest-real, comfortable, cozy as an extra blanket on a twenty-below zero night.
To make matters all the more pleasant, the host feeds wildlife just beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows. It's not at all unusual to wake up in the night and find yourself face to face with two or three browsing deer.
You observe them. They observe you. You are two species passing in the night.
You doze off again. You wake up. You feed the fire, and take in the view. You doze some more. The stars and the hours slip by. You can feel yourself smile in your sleep.
In the old country, when Vikings died, the Norse sent them off to Valhalla by pushing them out to sea on fiery war ships. In that spirit, I have negotiated a deal with my friend the sofa owner.
When I go, he is to put me on the sofa, put the sofa on his pontoon boat, douse everything with pre mixed chain saw gas, strike a kitchen match and send me off to the Minnesota Valhalla that lies across that small north woods lake.
It will take six Department of Natural Resources permits in triplicate and three special sessions of the state legislature. The governor will threaten to veto it unless he can charge a special fee.
But if I can arrive in Valhalla on that sofa aboard a pontoon boat with a smile on my face and a couple of kinks in my back, I will be one rich, happy, fulfilled Minnesotan indeed.