Scattered throughout the Nordic trails system around the valley are a host of benches. A couple are placed in memory of late residents, but most exist just to provide skiers with a place to sit for a moment and enjoy a view of Goat Wall, a pine forest, or a snowy field. Engraved on these benches are winter-themed quotations; some are song verses, some are lines from poems.
Early on a Christmas Eve morning ski, I stopped by the bench along the Bitterbrush loop to warm up my fingers. The sun was just casting the distant peaks of the Pasayten in a rosy golden glow, the air was still, and the snow was so cold it squeaked under my skis. The words engraved on the bench seemed particularly seasonal that day, so I took a photo of the bench, which later ran in the newspaper.
A friend saw the photo and asked if I had sung the lyrics as I stood by the bench. “What lyrics?” I asked. “The ones engraved on the bench,” the friend replied. “You know they’re from a Peanuts Christmas special, right?”
No, I did not know that, but it’s true—the bench features a verse from “Christmas Time is Here:” “Snowflakes in the air/Carols everywhere/Olden times and ancient rhymes/Of love and dreams to share.”
In the spirit of the season, I set about trying to remember the melody, without the assistance of Google. Although the opening melody of “Jingle Bells” works in terms of tempo and tone, I was pretty the Peanuts composers were tasked with creating a signature tune. I plumbed the depths of my brain, but couldn’t dredge it up.
And then I remembered something that someone wise and devious told me years ago, which is that any ballad written in common meter (alternating lines of eight-syllable iambic tetrameter with lines of six-syllable iambic trimeter) can be set to the tune of “Gilligan’s Island” quite effectively.
Now, the verse on the Bitterbrush loop bench isn’t written precisely in ballad meter but it’s pretty darn close, and with some strategic pauses it fits the form.
At this point it was all over; I couldn’t NOT hear “Christmas Time is Here” without hearing it to the tune of “Gilligan’s Island.” Thus the Peanuts song was forever altered for me, fallen by the same sword that felled “Amazing Grace,” “The House of the Rising Sun,” “Tangled up in Blue,” and “Material Girl” for me years ago. And now, I suspect, they are wrecked for you as well. Sorry.
PS: I wouldn’t mind writing about something of substance next week, so please send me your ideas. Social distancing has meant fewer chance encounters with column fodder.