Tagice

January 4, 2020

Hello.

A quick and important note: if you are the person who sent me an email through my website on New Year’s Eve, I would love to answer your questions, but your email doesn’t work. Can you resend, this time doublechecking your address? Thanks!

Welcome to the new year. We entered it here with trepidation and ice. The ice, at least, was lovely and far less destructive than we feared. After the Night Of Breaking Trees in 2008, my house has been ice-shy, and it showed in our storm prep. We had a waiting generator; plenty of crackers, bread, peanut butter, and sardines (okay, so we don’t plan the food well); fully charged headlamps, phones, and computers; and the awesome little solar/handcrank radio that my husband gave me. The radio can also be used to charge phones, and I’m tempted to only charge my phone by cranking it from now on. I’m sure that will help my computer-challenged wrists tremendously.

In any case, no trees came down and the ice was pretty. It lasted until yesterday, at which point it was warm enough to allow the trees to shake free. I know this because they shook much of the ice free onto our heads as we walked.

Picture of a branch with red berries encased in ice.

This wasn’t the first storm of the season. That honor goes to another two-day event that happened prior to the solstice and left us with two feet of snow. This volume of snow has happened often enough in the last twenty years that I was prepared for a blocked vent pipe. For future reference: pint Mason jar + duct tape + roof rake + thermos of hot water = everything you need to clear a roof pipe packed with snow without actually getting up on the roof.

There is a car under this snow! (Also lots of forsythia run amok, but ignore that.)

This was the first holiday season in years that I threw caution to the wind and baked dozens and dozens (and dozens) of cookies, which we then gave to anyone who would have them. My plan was to make dinner for my in-laws on Christmas, but plans are such fragile things. I went to the ER with gallbladder pain instead, which is less fun than you might imagine. The ER was empty though, and I did get a pass through the CT tube, so I suppose I should count it as a win.

I’ve been working on writing as well. I’m in need of a new track at the moment. I have two options. One entertains me–it’s easy to work on, has characters I enjoy, and takes place somewhere I know well. It’s also a something of a fun dare, and I need the push to try new things.

The other is something I was born to write, but requires research that I don’t want to do. Even the temptation of writing vampires cannot fully override my reluctance. The trouble with apocalyptic/post apocalyptic fiction is that you must look into the abyss to write it. Redemptive or not, loss and pain are central to it.

Writing is a conversation with the world. Sometimes that conversation is why or don’t do that, and sometimes it is I love you and I see what is beautiful in you, and often it’s complicated in the way of those found in long term relationships. The kind that even when you know it must occur, you still find it very difficult to wish to begin.

The truth is that the best relationships are never one note, and that without challenge we atrophy. We must never lose sight of the fact that sometimes we need shelter, and sometimes we provide it, and sometimes we must create shelter together and use companionship to stay warm. A solid relationship, with anything from ourselves on up to the universe itself, sits upon that bedrock. Whatever the form their work takes, writers have stories they’re meant to tell in order to hold up their end of life’s bargain.

Another truth, though, is that the world really is beautiful, and sometimes humans do get it right. I spent a morning watching flash mob videos last month. This one sticks with me, both for the music and because it reminds me that we really do all have our parts to play.

Be well and wild, dear ones.

No bad news

It is March, and it is cold. I have no dry socks at the moment, and the heat is gone from my tea. The snow piles around the house are tall enough that I can stand on them and pat the roof as I work on the ice in the gutters.

The only proper response is to shed the socks, reheat the tea, and listen to this song, inserting “snow and cold” in the place of “bad news.”

Spring is gathering her energy. It won’t be long now. Dream of the wild, of foxes barking outside of open windows, of bears sniffing the air, their stomachs rumbling.

Not long at all.

The spaces between

The freezing rain that was supposed to have ended by now is continuing. The trees look heavy outside, tired from the wet snow over Thanksgiving and now this. Whenever there is ice, the fear creeps back in. Our ice storm was years ago, but the sound of trees breaking apart in the dark remains fresh in my mind.

The next morning, once we saw exactly how much damage there was, we fled with everything we could pile in clothesbaskets, the dog wedged in with the kids in the backseat. We were let through the mostly closed roads because we promised we wouldn’t be back until after everything was cleared. When we returned, five days later, we passed lines of power trucks from all over the country, and wanted to stop and thank each and every one of their crews.

Driving away that first morning, the line between ice and no ice was clear and abrupt. All it took was a slight decrease in elevation, and suddenly we were looking at rainwashed roads and undamaged trees. In the valley, as we wandered through the grocery store, stunned, people chatted about all the normal things, their minds full of the usual business of life, while ours were still frozen, still thinking of power lines crumpled across the pavement, trees bent into tunnels over the roads, the snap and rush and shudder of hidden things falling in the night.

We’ve all played both roles in life. We’ve all been the one suffering silent grief, or fear, or trauma of an endless variety while others pass us by, unknowing. We’ve all been the one brushing shoulders with those suffering, ignorant and content in our lives. I remember reading, and rereading, “Musee des Beaux Arts”, by W.H. Auden, as a teen, being drawn to it because of how it captured that gap, acknowledged it in a way I hadn’t found before.

Of course, we all pass each other knowing so little of the cogs and wheels that tick inside. It’s not just the major tragedies, in fact, it’s not just tragedy. The person in the grocery store may be full of joy, not sorrow. If they stop to pick up the pen you’ve dropped, it’s just as possible that they do so to share their happiness as it is that sadness has taught them the necessity of kindness.

Or perhaps it’s just manners, and you’ll both go on your way, the moment one of many forgotten over the course of a day. There’s no way to know without questioning, and who stops to ask someone why they would pick up a dropped pen, rather than just thanking them?

For me, that’s part of the magic of fiction. I can store up all those little sparks and come home and write. I can calculate the distance between one person and the next, find the shortcuts between them. It is, for those of us drawn more to listening than to speaking, a way to share the things we’ve seen, the ice and the tired power crews running the wires to turn our lights back on, while others continued with their lives.

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