the scent of paperwhites


What is that smell, I thought, as I came into the kitchen first thing, the sun barely up, the air outside frigid (as I discovered when I went out to hang the hummingbird feeder). I knew it, but couldn’t bring the origin to mind. Until I saw that the paperwhites I brought down from the sunroom yesterday were beginning to open. A single blossom filled the kitchen. Every year I pot up some paperwhite bulbs in pebbles and forget them. Until they bloom. And then it’s every solstice, every Christmas.

It’s cold here on the Sechelt peninsula. Colder than it’s ever been in our 40+ plus years. Snow on the ground, birds in great numbers under the feeder, waiting their turn. I didn’t have suet the other day so mixed lamb fat from Monday’s birthday roast with peanut butter, shelled sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds, chilled it in a little tart pan, then put the disk in the suet holder. The juncos and chickadees love it. I was worried this morning about the Anna’s hummingbirds who’ve been coming daily to the feeder hanging outside the dining area window but about 10 minutes after I’d hung out the feeder (brought inside overnight to keep the contents from freezing), one of them, a female, came and drank deeply, hovering on the rim, then drinking again.

Yesterday, on the way back from our swim and errands, we saw coyote tracks winding up the driveway (we were on foot, pulling the bins of groceries on a sleigh, because there’s too much snow to get the car up to the house), and the tracks of a snowshoe hare coursing in and out of the bush.

This morning there’s a good fire and pinky-grey light over the tops of the snow-laden firs. I’ll listen to old carols, dip the orange peel I candied last week in dark Belgian chocolate, and work on the essay I began two months ago and which shows no sign of coming to a conclusion. So maybe not an essay after all but a book-length memoir? Who can say. Not me, tied up in knots over the memories revisited in its sentences, its evocations of a difficult time in my life. But it’s warm inside, the kitchen filled with the scent of paperwhites while outside the birds are gathered for their breakfast. Just beyond the house, the coyotes are tracking through the snow, perhaps in pursuit of the hare. I won’t say “Let it snow” because there’s enough for anyone. Any living thing.

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

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