Snowflakes, in all their diverse beauty, fell liberally across the land. In some places, they fell with blizzard fury and made the news. In other places they fell so softly it seemed a soundless leisure. And sometimes they fell in places snowflakes had never fallen before.
Some said it was due to the effect of climate change. Others considered it a freakish event without cause. Still others, especially those who could not surmount the inconvenience of evolution, cursed the sky from where the snowflakes fell.
It was a long winter. Some called it endless. Many were exhausted by it.
People searched for alternative reasons to explain the constant snowfall. They babbled and babbled and many harsh and useless words were thrown around. Most didn’t notice how the snow had accumulated under their feet.
Then it happened. Spring came like it always does.
The millions and millions of snowflakes melted.
The oceans rose.
The rivers swelled.
The floods came.
And no amount of bagging could stop them.
They coursed through towns. They knocked down the doors of houses, sweeping out all the secrets kept there in the corners.
It was shocking. It was devastating. And after the floods, it was quiet for many days.
Then one person salvaged some wood and set it in the sun to dry out. Another person scavenged for nails. And another found some paper and a pencil and set out to record all that had happened, just like before.
My voice has been gone for months. I tell myself it will return like one of those faithful dogs unwittingly lost hundreds of miles from home. In my mind I can smell the heat and sour of its breath, feel the heavy fatigue that pushes down on its neck, see the scrapes on the pads of its feet. I can smell the dark cold of its fur and feel the matting of its coat tightening and pulling at the skin. I hope this dog doesn’t give up, doesn’t lie down in the ditch, there by the side of the road. And I hope, too, it saw the same light I saw this weekend, the thousands and thousands of women marching.
The truth is I chased my voice away. It was too trembly, I thought. It stumbled over words. It lacked indignant, angry energy and was well schooled in going mute when challenged. I silenced myself.
I thought of Sor Juana. I thought of Anne Sexton. I remembered how angry I felt when I discovered I’d reached the end of their words, that somehow, though their words were of them, they didn’t belong to them.
It’s true I prefer quiet to loud, and bird-loud to human-loud. I’d rather be silently sorting buttons with an old grandma than be dosed with the flash and color of crowds.
But I see the Gollums out there dancing their gleeful dances on the backs of human dignity. I see darkness coming and the silence of powerlessness starts to descend upon me again.
Then I remember having heard the rustling of a corn stalk in a black field. I remember the tire screech from a car a half mile away. I remember how big the sound of a lone voice is on a mountain.
Sound will pierce the places there is no light. A dogged voice will cut through the darkness. The meek one will too.
Betty and I are walking to the river. I wear two pairs of sweat pants, a turtleneck, a sweater, and my long polka-dot robe under my coat. I wear a ridiculous hat in high school colors, with a pom pom on top. My boots are good, grey and warm. Betty does the three legged hop, then tries a two legged hop, before sitting down to warm her paws with her tongue.
There is a bird on the iced over river, the river where, only yesterday, ducks were swimming between the ice floes. One day has changed the story completely. The bird has the shape of a heron, but a heron in winter makes no sense. And I can’t tell what it is because I don’t perceive depth. I have to rely on shadow and angle and movement and the bird isn’t moving and dawn has yet to open its bright eyes to the frigid air.
Now the bird walks the frozen river. We walk parallel to it along the short beach. It has one wing that is hanging wrong. Maybe its long curving neck is a pose for survival. Will a wing mend itself? Swiftly, I mean. I know I cannot reach the bird. The weight of my humanity would break the fragile ice and already I’m drowning in my own feeling of helplessness.
And I write this, not because I think it will have any impact. It won’t save the bird with the broken wing. It won’t save the mothers and fathers and their children in Aleppo. It will not save the bees. It will not stop a hurricane. It will do nothing to stop the bleed of greed and corruption. About all it will do is mark me as one who wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, but didn’t.
Pook had his 10th birthday 3 days ago. I took him to the veterinarian. I’m sure he would have chosen to do something else, like go swimming in the river in his shorts and t-shirt or wander the neighborhood “Building streets”, imagining a new little city, fitting and layering his own roads and highways upon what already exists.
But we went to the vet. He happily listened to MPR with me because that’s the kind of boy he is, curious and easily engaged.
He is the kind of boy who makes up jokes like this:
“Why does time fly faster as you grow older?”
“Because Earth’s rotation speeds up.”
He is the kind of boy with quickly shifting passions. He can move from zero to frustrated fury in less than a second. It’s like a frozen, forgotten can of pop warming in the back seat of the car. BOOM!.
He’s the kind of boy who is continually surprised by his sensitivities.
“Mama, when you told Betty we’d get her poor little body fixed up, it made me cry. Look.”
Betty has Heartworm and, for the last 10 days, mostly what I’ve been thinking about is her, imagining a hand full of cooked long spaghetti wriggling in her heart. Evil worms and their spawn.
And he’s also the kind of boy who keeps reminding me that everything will be fine, that I have to trust.
Now I’m reminding you.
Haste is the way to acquiring closets full of plastic junk and no treasure.
The early bird and all that.
It’s polite to be on time but far worse to teach your children to live under society’s shadow, self-denial in praise of the voice of high hurry.
Get a fast car and, whatever you do, don’t drive a car from last century unless it’s shined and in a parade.
Get over it already, hurdle horse, because grief and confusion and loss are slow and uncomfortable. At least don’t talk about it.
Clean the house.
Cleanliness is not a virtue.
A dirty cup is no more sinful than a barking dog.
And if I say to you, “Be quick”, because I’ve forgotten what I just wrote,
Say to me, “Have a cup. Rinse it if you must, but sit and drink it until you hear the ice loosen from the soil outside your window.”
Remind me that acquisition is heavy,
a burden so weighty, I won’t be able to help you with yours.
In fact, I might not even see you.