Thoughts on Gladiator on a Snowy, December Afternoon

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By Steve Pauwels

My family had fifteen or so large trees — including a few, hundred-foot pines — cut down around our home a month ago. We’ve been cleaning up the ample mess since, pecking away at it, doing a lot of brush burning. Today, my oldest son came home early from work and he and I were outside tending to a pile of smoldering limbs and other, assorted arboreal debris. It was seasonally cold and a busy breeze was at work; a half-inch of snow blanketed most of the ground. The combination of guttering flames and damp wood made the air predictably smokey. Languid snowflakes were falling; not enough to collect much, but swirling around us.

“This reminds me of the beginning of Gladiator,” my twenty-seven year old said.

Thereby demonstrating I’ve had at least some influence on him …

I’m told the magisterial opening scene of that, my favorite, movie was filmed to mesmerically atmospheric effect on a wintry day in a then-recently harvested stand of timber called Bourne Wood, in Farnham, Surrey, England. Thus, the widespread wreckage of felled trees you can spy if, through the wheeling snowflakes, you watch that sequence closely.

Much, I’d say, like my backyard on this chilly, snowy, early-winter’s day here in New Hampshire.

If we had a short month of weather like this, and then it began immediately warming up, I’d welcome the winter. I’ll admit, it’s a nice change, certainly splendid for Christmas time — although by late January it will already be getting old.

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