Sunday, January 23, 2011

All Shades of Brilliant White

Snow pants. Boots. Coat. Hat. Mittens.


The gingerbread boys are building a snow fort, complete with spy holes, so she decides to walk down to the pond to visit the fish. She doesn't know if there are even any fish in there still, but she wants to walk, so down the path she goes.

Last year, they moved their poor lone fish, Angst, inside for the winter. His fishy antics kept her company while she tippety-tap typed on her laptop. When spring came, they returned him to the pond, along with several other new fishy friends.

Sadly, Angst didn't make it through the summer. At least she thinks he didn't. She hasn't seen him in a long time. Maybe he made a break for freedom through the trench leading from the pond to the stream. She doesn't know. He could be hiding under the lily pad, though his bright orange bulk would be hard to disguise.

This year, disheartened by the fate of Angst, they didn't collect Cardinal, Goldene, Blackie, and the rest. Survival of the fittest, she thinks. Emotional attachment to a 29 cent Wal-mart feeder fish is an entanglement sometimes better left alone.

She arrives at the pond, but there are no fish to be seen--big surprise--so she keeps walking, following the trench to the stream. It's nearly frozen, a thin skin formed over the trickling water. Mounds of snow are heaped up on the banks, and the evidence of both deer and little boys dot the snowy land, their tracks leading out in lines and circles. She's relieved to see that the tracks of the little boys go to the tree that bridges the stream, but no farther.

She turns around and decides to blaze a trail through the deep snow to the ford. How much easier this would be in snow shoes, she thinks.

But not as much fun.

She feels like a little girl again, ten or eleven, snow pants and all, crunching through the top layer of frozen snow to the fluff beneath, sinking down, and slogging through. When she reaches the ford, she's a bit breathless, and there's a mound of snow where the sitting stone should be, so she sits down, and the snow holds her. She leans back, looking out at the snow-covered forest. How beautiful this all is--the trees, the white hills and valleys of snow, the blue hour as the sun sets.

She used to hate winter. But winter in a city is full of cloudy skies, slushy streets, and bitterly cold wind. Winter in farm country and forest is completely different. It's all shades of brilliant white. The sun shines here, the snow sparkles, and inside, there's always a fire in the wood stove. She lies on her back, and looks up at the sky. She's surrounded by peace. She needs to go back, but she wants to stay here a little bit longer, in this cocoon of peace where the only sound is the faint trickle of the stream.

The gingerbread man calls to her, following her footprints to where she lies in the snow. He reminds her that the sled run he built needs to be broken in. She passed it on her walk to the ford: it dives down the trail, twists from side to side, before shuttling through two saplings toward the stream. The gingerbread boys are now up in a pine tree somewhere, hollering out to whomever is around.

Dinner can wait. She takes the red sled and decides to stay eleven for a bit longer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Happy Friday

And even though this week ended in much the same way it began (no school), it was a happy Friday. Why? Because I remembered to turn off the phones last night, so the blasted 5:30 am phone alert system wouldn't pull me from my happy place, like it did on Wednesday, when not only did I stumble across the room to the phone in a bleary, blurry lurch, I also fell into the drying rack (curse those all-cotton shrinkables!), as well as the laundry basket. Ok, I didn't actually fall into the laundry basket; I keeled over it and fell into the side of the bed. Ow.

But that was Wednesday.

I think.

Monday was, of course, a national holiday, so naturally we went sledding, cheering for civil rights each time we went down the hill.

On Tuesday, I fully expected a snow day, but the call never came. The email never came. So gingerbread boy #1 got ready, lugged his trombone up the driveway and waited for the bus. And waited. And waited some more. Then he came inside. The gingerbread man drove him to school, only to find out that school was cancelled because of the weather. Phone alert system. Fail. The antidote? Make chocolate chip cookies, of course.

And Wednesday. You heard about Wednesday. We shall not talk about Wednesday. Except to say that the call wasn't even for a snow day; it was for a two-hour delay. Grnack. That's the sound of me gnashing my teeth. Phone alert system. Fail again. Thankfully, we still had some cookies.

Thursday came. School? Oh yes. We remember that.


Which brings us to today. Friday. Guess what? Another snow day. But today, I was not to be fooled. Last night, I turned off the phones again! Do you see me smirk in glee? Ha ha! I beat you, phone alert system!

Arising at a blessed hour, we filled our day with legos. With paints and new paintbrushes. With a search through old magazines for pictures to go along with poetry: vernal pools, yo-yos, and basset hounds. Diamonds, talc, and surfboards. Some children write about dogs or cats, or seasons of the year. Mine write about yo-yos.

And then there was snow. Lots and lots and lots of snow.

Next Monday is a scheduled day off--a teacher workshop day. And next Tuesday? Another storm is predicted. Maybe we'll make oatmeal cookies.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lines and Circles

In some strange synesthesia-thing, she sees the year as a line stretching from January to December, which means that January always comes as a surprise. The line of each year stretches far, far out--way down the block--and then suddenly it stops. Ah. January. Here you are. Time for resolutions. Time for resolve.

Well. She can make a goal to finish a draft of the next novel. That's an easy goal to set. Not to achieve, but to set. And, um, hrm. There was that goal last year of taking vitamins and calcium that got side-swiped by all the medical tests at the beginning of the year. She figured back then that she should have her blood and urine unadulterated by even over-the-counter vitamins. And somehow, she never returned to it, even after all the testing was done. Then there was that goal about posture. Too much time spent huddling over the computer, huddling over babies, huddling over her books. Posture. She goes to yoga class--does that count? She decides it does. Good. Career goals. Check. Physical goals. Check. What about mental or emotional goals?

She thinks and thinks. Resolutions are supposed to be about developing good habits. Or undeveloping bad ones. What habits are needed? She already exercises. See? Here she sits in her car, yoga mat at her side, water bottle at the ready, multi-tasking! Mental boost, physical strength, and posture, all rolled up into one hour a week! She unrolls her mat in a teeny space at the back of the studio. The class is full of new goal-setters. Her teacher knows it and gives them an extra-difficult class, as if to weed out the wimps. After shaking muscles and lots of breathing, she lies flat on the mat in corpse pose, nearly dead after all that breathing and all that posing, and inspiration strikes. Here she had been trying to find balance by figuratively dancing on a plank laid on top of a pipe. Balance isn't to be found that way. She needs to be linear. She needs her life to be a straight line, on a flat surface. She needs to be a straight line. Like her mental image of the year. But how does one make a goal to be linear?

Most days, she goes in circles. Around and around, doing things that get undone. Shopping for food, cooking it, consuming it, dirtying dishes. Net result: calories. Washing herself, which only dirties the bathroom. Cleaning the bathroom, which in turn, dirties her. She washes clothes, only to wear them, and get them dirty again. And this doesn't take into account the gingerbread boys. The circle goes around and around and around. She needs to get somewhere. From point A to point B. Start to finish. She needs to find the end to something. December is an end. January is a beginning. Sure, they can be connected, but there's a period there, not just a semi-colon.

Back home, she folds the third load of laundry of the day, while dinner is cooking. The oldest gingerbread boy practices piano, playing a mixture of Bach's Inventions, Coldplay, and Do You Know the Muffin Man? Over and over he plays, song after song, circling back to Bach after playing the others. Doing and redoing and undoing all of these things makes her tired. Depression chips away at the lines in her life, until she's left with a dot, a sorry excuse for a circle.

Yes, she needs lines right now, not circles. Beginnings with happy endings. She's done with twirling around, spinning like a whirling dervish.