March 29, 2012

Black Dog Nature Preserve

So it's spring, and I'm out walking again, today in the middle of the big city, trains rattling west, airplanes overhead, highway noise rumbling on two sides, glimpses of 35W through the ten-foot high still-standing grasses, but: the still-standing grasses swaying ten feet high, the robins with their scraggly nests and cautiousness, the deer paths, the boggy soil, dirt black as night, a new word (fen), the Mississippi past the sedge line, the (I think) common sootywing butterfly that looks neither sooty nor common to these color-starved eyes, which is to say nothing for the green the green the green the green the green.

March 14, 2012

Spring Forward

Your husband is sleeping. You hear his deep, regular breaths, feel the warmth of his fingers next to yours under the blankets. You do not have to look to know the contours of his face at rest in the dark.

You turn onto your side, pull your knees up closer to your chest. Flex your toes.

When you get up, you do so quietly, so as not to wake him, and tiptoe out, stepping into the cold of other rooms. You check your phone: 3:07 a.m. For a while you stand at the window, listening to the wind, watching it move the shadowed branches in the grove, thinking. When you pad back through the house--eyes heavy now, decisions put off until morning--the stove clock blinks 2:36, and you accept this like any dream's incongruence. It is only later, that morning, that the two of you realize it is Daylight Savings, and that you were awake in the strange moments when in some parts of the house it was one hour and in others it was sixty minutes before. You wonder how you managed to float so easily between them.

The recent months have left you feeling pulled in a dozen directions. On any given day, the counter top is full of pretzel sticks in bowls, renewal forms for home insurance, receipts that need to be filed, guitar picks, the bottom half of the blender, and multiple to-do lists. At work you are juggling too many plates and the kids sense it. On the road you are learning German and questioning politics and studying the disappearing snow. You are forgetting friends' birthdays. You are forgetting what it means to go slow.

So when the day of Daylight Savings turns into a day of sun-filled light, a need pushes up inside you like a blade of eager grass. It is 64' in Minnesota in early March. People are everywhere. Children call to each other from the tops of playgrounds, fathers toss weathered baseballs to young sons, elderly couples in winter coats walk hand-in-hand, and your neighbor lays in her backyard on a lawn chair in her swimming suit. You feel the loop-knots of a dozen other strings tugging on you, but you shake your arms a bit, roll your neck, and step into the warmth and onto sidewalks that you have missed for months. Eventually, after multiple mental reminders, you walk them with simple, slow strides.

Long past where you had earlier decided to turn toward home, you find yourself on the edge of the local lake, sitting on a concrete stoop that in summer moors a fishing pier. You have kept your face tipped sunward all the way here, letting the warmth loosen your muscles. It is lazily, miraculously, that you look out in front of you, and with surprise, strangely, that you realize the lake it still covered by a white plate of ice. Incongruous, you think, and unlike the night before, you pay attention.

There is warm and wet, cool and dry, life and death, all of it somehow either blazing or blinding on each side of you. You are sitting in spring: brown grasses, wet earth, chickadees returning with the geese. The open water at your feet displays a wet world of dark oak leaves, perfectly shaped. But ahead of you, three feet out, is winter wrapped in such crystalline white. Two thick logs sit one hundred yards from any soil, chairs for some February fishermen. There's a dry, purple mitten next to them. You are in short sleeves. How does one account for such things?

Then from over the hill the wind, an approaching ghost train from yet another world, barrels down toward the water, sends crackling leaves and fallen branches flying, makes you shiver with all its premonition. It arrives. You cross your arms around yourself against the cold. Moments later it is calm again.

It's then that you hear it: incremental movements, a cleckcleckcleckcleck, the sound of a million minute stretches. In front of you the ice--a centimeter thick and porous with air--rises with the water, the wind's sigh, and melts. It shimmers and shatters brilliantly there. Then it settles back. Gives over to memory. Returns to ice. For a while you are quiet, listening and watching and feeling the way the in-between can be.

That evening the day stays light until 7:30, or 6:30, whichever it is where ever you are. You stand on the deck looking out at the pale blue sky, your husband next to you, talking. The air cools as the sun sinks, and as you talk about taxes, to-do lists, June, struggling kids, the way the past has slid into a future you cannot prepare for, not really, you think about the edges of lake ice hardening, revisiting that earlier familiar season, and you think about the water beneath, straining toward days of algae and fish and warmth. That incongruence. You think about what it means to float on both water and ice. The breath and the stepping out. How perhaps it is easier than you thought.

You are about to tell him this, your partner in all this big dreaming, these back-and-forth days, these in-betweens. But you can see his breath now in the dark, regular and deep, and you don't have to say a word.

You turn toward him, wrap your arms around his shoulders. Rise up on your toes.