a cautionary tale


We have a metal roof. Our original roof was cedar shakes but when it needed replacing 10 or so years ago, given the increasing number of weeks without rain in summer and our proximity to the forest, it seemed prudent to replace the shakes with metal. Our bedroom, with a small bathroom and John’s study, is the entire second-storey of our house. On the western edge, we removed the eaves-trough last summer when we had some of the eaves troughs replaced with seamless lengths. The ones John had attached many years ago, and caulked, developed leaks. On the eaves just above our bed, the drips were annoying and it was hard to get to that eaves trough to clean it out. Proximity to forest + many Douglas firs and western cedars = gunk in the gutters. The water running down that western slope of second-storey roof ends up on a lower roof that empties, in summer, into a big rain barrel; we use the water for potted plants and vines that grow up the posts and rails of the decks.

When it snows, and then warms up a bit, the snow on the high second-storey roof begins to slide down the metal. It slides over the edge, where the eaves trough was, and it hangs for a few days in front of the window like a curtain. Mostly the bedroom is very light. The curtains (seldom drawn in winter) are white linen. So for the past couple of days, I’m always taken aback at first when I go upstairs and see the shadowy light in the bedroom. I’ve been having some trouble with my retinas, damaged after a fall in late November. One hole was repaired in early December but then two more developed. They were detected last week and repaired but my ophthalmologist was very insistent that I pay attention to any changes in my vision. Watch for a curtain-like shadow over your visual field, he warned, and if that happens, come to me immediately. I forget about the snow-curtain over the windows upstairs and then I wonder why the room is so dim.

I think of this poem, by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin. How beautifully she captures the condition of not knowing if the way you are seeing is true or dream or both. “…the interval shaken loose.” That’s it, exactly.


I laid myself down and slept on the map of Europe,
It creaked and pulled all night and when I rose
In a wide hall to the light of a thundery afternoon
The dreams had bent my body and fused my bones
And a note buzzed over and again and tuned for the night.

We advanced to the window: the square frame showed us
Everything, where we had washed up, above rolling domes,
A splash of talk reaching us; behind us we could not hear
How the dark oil-paint slid down the wall
Wiping out the way we had come. The measure changed,

The warped foot staggered, I thought
Of the yelping music, the interval shaken loose,
I will not hear again. The red-haired bard
Rehearsed the bare words that make the verse hang right,
The skewed weights holding in their place like feathers.

“The room was suddenly rich…”

rose hips

By my bedroom window this morning, the bright memory of summer roses, the R. canina, soft pink, faintly but sweetly scented. And looking out, I could imagine the roses on those early summer mornings, bees already at work in the pollen. It’s cold here and so soon dark——it’s 4:07 as I type and the sun is setting, fiery as gutted sockeye salmon—  but the roses will be blooming before we know it. This poem, “Snow” by Louis MacNeice, has always held the winter’s paradox in its beautiful lines.

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes –
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands –
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.