calm before

You know it's bad when the weather service has to make a Game of Thrones reference. (Thing: I like the person who writes these long weather statements for Manitoba; he/she has a much more colorful vocabulary than the person who did it for Ontario.) The cupboard was not what you call bare--in fact, there was plenty--no rush for bread and milk necessary the way people do when there's a storm coming. What are you all doing with that bread and milk? Anyway, what I did need was some coffee, because now I have grown myself an addiction and I was not about to let my little coffee jar go empty. And if I'm going out for coffee I might as well make sure there's an extra box of cream because Myron's been putting it on his hot cereal on the weekends. Two stops. No big.

There is a whole lot to hate about transit but if you head out on it with the right frame of mind, it can be not quite so bad. It helps if you have something playing in your ears (today, an old episode of The Splendid Table). I am practicing my chill lately (not the kind in the weather report) and to do this, you pretend that people do not smell bad or bounce their heads/air-drum to their music or eat a bag of onion rings and then wipe their hands on the seat. You pretend, in fact, that the seats are not covered in fabric because that is a terrible, terrible idea for a bus! You pretend they are fiberglass, wiped every night by a fleet of no-nonsense custodians with all of god's own ammonia. You focus on where you are going when you get out of the bus and what else is going on with you or you turn your brain off and listen to an argument for canola, instead of olive oil, in your next batch of toum. You remember there is a whole lot of local garlic in a wicker basket at home that is begging for this treatment. Before you know it, it's time to get off the bus.


At my transfer I saw a community bulletin board with a dozen flyers begging for my attention. They got it. Something about the dark day and the looming snowstorm and all that beautiful dark red on the Twelfth Night poster. Doesn't it make you just want to put on as many layers as you have to, and some lipstick just that red, and go watch a play? Good, bad, whatever? I understand if you don't, but I'm thrilled if you do. Winnipeg winter is a fucking beast and if you don't go out into it and basically defy it to kill you, it'll sense your fear and eat you up from the inside.

a tiny weather system

This was not supposed to happen. I was not supposed to write six times in January and then not at all in February. This is not how you bring back a habit or find joy in it. It's what happened, though. The opposite of inspiration is not expiration, not really. And yet I can see it this way--air going into me, air flowing out like a tiny current picking up dried leaves and blowing hair into lip gloss.

five notebooks.jpg

Those are the five notebooks on my dining room table, to the right of my computer, waiting their turn. One of them, I admit, is just an agenda, but I need to deal with it as much as I need to deal with the stuff in the other four. Their pages are packed full of my scrawl: ideas, lists, embryonic blog posts, calls to action. 

I have not been good with action lately. For three weeks, our house has pulsed quietly with worry. It can't shake this vibration off even when Myron's at work. We watch livestreams from Ukraine, reload The Interpreter over and over. (I can't read Ukrainian, so I'm stuck with English versions of things; Myron reads both Ukrainian and Russian so he summarizes other sources for me.) I go to Twitter not to read my own timeline but Kateryna Kruk's. I try to read other things but return again and again to this. Ukraine is not my homeland, but Myron is my heart and my heart is aching.

Saturday I was supposed to go with my photo group to a small town an hour north of here for a festival. A few days beforehand, the trip was canceled because it was just too cold. This is a thing. Too cold for Winnipeggers, the heartiest of Canadians and the most impatient with weather-whining! The people I know have stopped talking about how cold it is, how drastically far below average, how punishingly windy. We said everything there was to say way back in December, and we can't even brag about withstanding it anymore. 

I switch back and forth between held breath and thousand-yard stare, those sudden moments when weather stops and even a dog won't howl and the sky is a wrong color. I sleep soundly but dreamlessly. I immerse myself in books and the wise words of people who have finished what I've started. I drink tea like it's the cure. I feel the care of my friends like warm hands on the back of my neck. It's March, it's March, I tell myself. The great gray beast February is three days gone. It spit out my bones, but not much more. I'm trying to figure out if I'm supposed to scrape together what's left of me or if I have a spare soul left in a box I haven't yet unpacked.

this world and the way it works

Remember a couple of weeks ago when the snow stayed off the sidewalks? Well.

There might still come another two inches to cover the grass and turn this into a white Christmas, but I will live without it. In the meantime, I have a particular Christmas song in my head, the only one I know that mentions Saturday Night Live, in homage to my aunt Karen, who loved David Cassidy growing up, and my mother who gamely shared a room with her and tolerated David Cassidy pinups because she loved her sister, and my grandmother who lost both of her daughters but learned to let the rest of us light her up. May your life be filled with sunshine, may your every wish come true, may you find a sweet fulfillment in everything you do. That’s Christmas talk, sure, but it’s Tuesday talk and March talk and birthday talk and it is eminently suited for days when everything you touch turns into a white sidewalk of sloppiness.

The angel on my shoulder says Walk in the grass, then, girl, you won’t melt. Or maybe you will, ha ha! It gets away with anything it likes and has taken to smoking Parliaments.

Christmas doesn’t mean the same when so many of the people who were at your childhood table aren’t there anymore. It just doesn’t. But it means something new, something you don’t absorb blindly because tradition makes it so. It evolves, lets in new family members, glows with LED instead of whatever we call those strings of lights I grew up with. I will spend it doing things I’ve put off, putting the year to rights and then putting it to rest, learning to get rid of the vignetting that comes along with this lens or learning to love it. I will perfect my fig vinaigrette. It might not look like celebrating to anyone who requires decorations to see Christmas, but it is, I promise you, I promise. It is as close as I come to Snoopy-dancing.

and then...

And then winter didn’t walk away, but the blues did, with the kind of fond backward glances that blues like to give you because they’re drama queens. And then you picked up their ashtray and their lipstick-smudged coffee cup and broke out the Febreze and flung open the windows. And it wasn’t snowy but it was still cold and you realized that flinging open windows for effect is not smart right now, but damn, it felt good to do that on December fourteenth with its pearl gray sky and its green but faded grass.

And you said it’s time to get some frames for those other two pictures. Flowers mean spring and every day brings it closer.

and you said ACK I forgot to add that image when I published the post the first time!

And you said my God, thank you for this.

And you realized what your hair looked like when you woke up, and even your curls were happy to see today and happy to live on top of a brain rinsed clean with relief. And they bounced and danced and would not be tamed, and there was a giggle and you weren’t sure if it came from you or the curls.

And then you tracked a package online and said oh darling to the Internet for its package-tracking skills and its people-meeting skills and its email (overfull with love and just-checking-in and plans for the future and snug babies growing in happy mothers) and its camera lenses from the US that cost 75 bucks less than they do here. (I went with the 35mm instead of the 50 because I rarely shoot portraits, in case you’re interested. And even if you aren’t, voila! You’ve read the sentence anyway.)

And it was a Wednesday like many others and while you kept typing it was ticking away, so you saved your post and got ready to live it instead.

the weight of silence

Lately I feel the loss of my mother, as her birthday approaches and my heart thumps in the echo chamber of her absence. It is the sound of her birthday song, which I cannot sing to anyone else, the way I cannot sing either of the cats’ songs anymore.

A wiser person would tell me Sing your own song. And it is half magic to hear the wisdom I need, just when I need it, without an actual wise person at my side sipping from a china cup. The other half is held breath. I don’t know how to do that; I’ve never had a song of my own. I guess I’ll learn by making mistakes, the way I learn everything else.

But there is a drumbeat. The creak of strings being tested and tuned. There is someone out there—no one from this house—who sets things to rights, who sees a bicycle on its side and stands it up against a tree, even though no one has claimed it for more than a month. There is another one of those crazy 2011 sunsets, Pinon pink and Black Mesa blue, singing together for a heartbeat before vanishing into the dark. There is a mad hunt for my shoe as I race to catch the last of the light, the bicycle, another weekend in the history books. There is a long exhale, and so much fear, but fear is more honest than happiness right now. Except for the love that others feel for me, everything else I have that matters has come through fear and made it. So will I. And on the way, I’ll make some noise.