Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Today is World Cancer Day. Glad to be here.

Glad to be wrestling with so much change and transition, the push and pull of Life as it continues to flip things on end and inside out, reminding me to return, always, to my heart. Glad to be in that precarious spot, that in-between, with forward motion temporarily arrested, and a tangle of suspended, possible destinations ahead, just beyond the giant leap across the abyss. Glad to be readying this jump, even if I can't see what's next. I'm pretty good at walking around in the dark. What's difficult is the going alone. It's what I've always done, of course, but I'm tired of it, and wouldn't mind some company. But glad, still, to be strong enough to go it alone for as long as I need to.

I suppose, too, I am missing my dog, whom we had to put down just before Thanksgiving. But I can't even begin to write about her, or I'll come completely unhinged and cry and have to seek solace in my cat, who has no use for crybabies. Gah.

It's strange how everything feels different when your dog dies. The cat looks for her everywhere, her low, drawn-out, plaintive, pathetic yowls echoing from all over the house, which feels by turn achingly empty and painstakingly filled with her spirit. Outside, the squirrels have multiplied. And the birds have started calling to me, but I, with my blindside in full swing, have taken little notice, save for the ridiculous amounts of birdseed they seem to go through every week.

Today is different. Today, I listen.

Circling around the house and back again, bringing armloads of wood to the deck, to fill both the wood box and the pockets of anxious cold that have opened up just below my heart, I hear them, from branches high and bare, letting me know.

As I fill the feeders, a fat gray squirrel hops onto the top of the picnic table to grab and nibble a rice cake, just one stale snack of many I had left in a pile atop this altar of sorts this morning. Rotting, falling apart piece by piece to herald our decay, the table, much like a fallen tree, is slowly being reclaimed by the earth. A feast for decomposers, its green, mossy, scarred veneer peels off in layers to reveal the raw materials at its core, a veritable city of industriousness ensuring the inevitability of constant change.  Everyday, a tiny little change, or a big one: an entire board peels off, the edges soften, the table sinks ever so slowly into the earth below. We're coming for you.

Tracks scurry and scatter across snow to our winter compost pile, a mix of Christmas greens, egg shells, and citrus peels and skins. I dump a bucket of ash from the woodstove atop bounding rabbit tracks, and the delicate, careful steps of our cat, which belie her copious fluff and fat.

The birds have discovered the fresh seed, and slowly return to the feeders. Male cardinals pop red against backdrops of pine and snow, while their mates, made ever more beautiful by the understated humility of their display, beg a little more effort from the watcher: harder to see, but so much more rewarding once they're found. Glad for the chance to watch them hide, then reveal themselves--nothing to prove. The chickadees fear not; unassuming, bold, friendly, they regard me with a tilt to the head as I lug past with the empty bucket.

Even after last night's frosting, the trees reach out, limbs bared, ready to catch tonight's snow. More, more. Skies gray and muted, a quiet hush has descended over the awakening trees, the fields of stubby cornstalks, even the birds, who know, as they always know, to move deliberately, and above all else, when things get squirrelly, to listen.

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