Though snow swirled yesterday and the roads were icy, though ravens have begun their courtship over our woods, acrobats of love, though the house is quiet and the cat is sleeping, I am happy to have reached my 67th birthday as the days grow a little longer and the sun dreams of summer.
The snow fell overnight. Again. Birds wait on the wall of logs. Happy to have reached my birthday, though a virus keeps friends and lovers apart, though the cold reaches right into the corners of the kitchen and I haven’t taken my tuque off for weeks. Happy happy happy. At least today.
What did the year hold in its 12 months, its moons and stars, its generous days. What. There were lonely times (when I could not find a friend), there were dark hours, so dark it was hard to find the tiny light glowing behind the abalone shell at the top of the stairs, there was joy. Birdsong on spring mornings, a bear with cubs in the old orchard.
The bougainvillea looks sad in the greenhouse, though I kept a lightbulb burning to keep the place from freezing. The geraniums, limp. The olive trees surprisingly upright and vivid. This is my birthday, I’ll tell them, We have the spring to look forward to, the summer. (Though some of them remember the heat dome, the weeks without rain.) We have warmth and spring rain, tiny frogs finding your leaves, dragonflies in the open door.
Make me a willow cabin at your gate,
And call upon my soul within the house.
The blue lanes, the untidy rivers, the red pulse of my own capricious heart as I swim – the quilt is nearly finished. I thought of water as I stitched, followed each oxbow and meander.
Even so quickly may one catch the plague?
To look forward to: some of your family visiting in February; Venus at its brightest in the middle of that month; the scribble of gold as a high jet passes your house from somewhere to somewhere; your new book in early April, the blue of its cover exactly what you dreamed it would be; the first miners lettuce; the bowl of snowdrops in bloom by the door (as you leave and return). May, June, July, August, the months collecting, accumulating, until another year has written itself into your memory. Look forward, past the snow and the broken branches, the days that are barely light, the ice on Oyster Bay.
O time, thou must untangle this, not I.
It is too hard a knot for me t’untie
(The passages in 5,7, and 9 are from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a play I’ve always loved.)