The snow is all gone. A week ago, drifts by the woodshed, heaped along the highway, ice on the drive leading up to our house. Everything was muffled–the sound of a plane overhead, ravens in the woods, and the sound of sheets of frozen snow falling from our metal roof as the thaw came. 10 days ago I turned 67. The turn is complete and I have begun to feel those years accumulated in my body as I think about spring.
These are such strange times. Some days go by and it’s as though nothing has changed. We swim, I cook, John fills the woodbox, we keep the fire going, and we continue to write. But the news! I’ve always been a news junkie and so I read several papers online as well as listening to the CBC hourly news several times a day. Is is just because it’s winter, and dark, that the world seems to have become both sick and dysfunctional? More and more people infected with Omicron, hospitals stressed, our social safety nets challenged. Russia rattling swords on the borders of Ukraine, the Taliban taking Afghanistan back into darker times, unending drama to the south of us…it’s hard to imagine better days.
When I woke in the night I was haunted by what I haven’t done. As we enter the 3rd year of this pandemic, I wonder why I haven’t used the time more productively. I keep saying I’m going to improve my French (2 bilingual grandsons…), organize my files more efficiently, find a way to winnow some of the clutter at every turn in this house I love so much. I’d even like to become more proficient as a quilter, a maker of textiles. Awake, I am haunted by lost possibilities. When I work on the quilt I am nearly finished, I realize that part of what I am sewing is a map of those lost moments. As I push my needle in and out of the rich blue and red cottons on the quilt top, the red traces on the underside echo the sleepless nights, the roads we never took, the rivers I never entered because of turbulence or fear. Once, swimming in the Thompson River, I could smell fish and I realized that as we were rafting (and swimming in calm moments when our guide said we could) from Spences Bridge to Lytton, sockeye swam beneath us, heading in the other direction, to the places of their origins. They’re in the quilt too, their own courage and perseverance at odds with what I see as my own lack. I sew my irregular stitches, never improving, while the world is on fire, dark with war, shadowy figures conspiring to violence, rafts sinking, and my only effort this morning is to stack logs by the woodstove and hope for the best.
The stove’s flame-red mirage lingers.
News comes from nowhere. I sit here,
Spirit-wounded, tracing words onto air.
–from “Facing Snow, by Du Fu (trans. David Hinton)