You received it as a gift—a ceramic house to set on your mantle or on a shelf or on a table. You hold the house in the palm of your hand—a triangle roof and a square base. No windows. No doors. Just the shape. Simple. The house a child would draw if you said, “Draw a house.” Or the house in a dream with no entrance and no exit. You’re just suddenly there. In the box of it, or you’re looking at it from a distance. Or there it is in a coloring book. You color it blue or brown. Maybe you add windows and doors. Even a dormer. And then the house starts getting complicated, and you can no longer hold it in your hand or remember your childhood or even dream it. Suddenly the house becomes a cape or a colonial or a bungalow. And there are too many words to remember, and too many memories to hold onto, and too much loss. The world is no longer the world you knew, and houses stretch for miles: triangles atop boxes. And you want to hold one in your hand. More than anything, you want to hold a house in your hand. And you reach out for one, but it stays just beyond your grasp. Never simple anymore. It is not the house in the coloring book. It is instead a structure full of rooms and doorways and hallways. The hallways are the hardest. They are narrow and long. You walk down one and push open a door. You hear the creak of its hinges and swear that one day you will oil them. You look inside the room, and maybe there’s a bed and a desk. A lamp sits on a table beside the bed. Maybe it is lit. Maybe a book waits by the lamp. Maybe a person, someone you love, holds the book. And that is familiar. And you leave the hallway and walk toward the familiar. Or you close that door and continue down the hallway and open another door. Its hinges do not creak, and the room behind the door looks like no room you’ve ever seen. All the windows on all the walls are wide open. Wind blows curtains up like wings. The wind takes you, and suddenly you are out the window and flying. You have wings. And nothing is familiar save for the houses below you—so far away you can only see their shapes—triangles and boxes. You want to hold one in your hand.
Winter is funny, the way it happens gradually—just like aging—it startles you one day. The texture of the air changes. Shadows appear where before there was light. And when the snows come, the branches sag closer and closer to the frozen ground. The trees go gray, the sky goes gray, even the dirt, the walkways, the streets—all gray. And when a cardinal or a blue jay appear, you feel such deep joy, as if color were just invented.
Tagged with: words
She watched from her window as the snow fell. Actually, it flew that day. The wind blew flakes sideways and upside down until everything was covered—even fences and signs and windows. And when she stepped outside and into it, she marveled at just how much the landscape had changed. Curbs were now huge mounds of plowed snow. Mountains, really. Trees and bushes were now white creatures, bent low and heavy. There were no longer streets or sidewalks—the world had gone white and vast and pathless. She looked down and noticed that her feet with their red boots had all but disappeared in the deep snow—her red hat and mittens the only color for as far as she could see. Gray sky matched gray trunks and blended into the deep, snowy ground. She looked for the horizon, but it did not exist. She dug her woolen hands into the snow and out of it molded a ball. She held the ball in the palm of her red mitten, and then she laid it on a drift. It should have disappeared, white upon white, but instead it glittered. The snowball glowed back at her, full of promise or loss—a crystal ball waiting out the storm.
The bare trees covered the hillside, and from a distance, it looked as if the hill was covered in fur. Funny that way—how hard branches soften. She drove a stretch of Vermont highway that even in the fall can ice over in spots. Her dog Gray slept beside her in the passenger seat. He curled up face to tail, and occasionally she laid her hand on his belly just to feel the slow rise and fall of his breath. She pulled the car off an exit and made her way down a back road and then to a dirt road. The tires hit ruts and bumps. Gray woke up then, propped himself on his hind legs, and looked out the window.
“Wanna take a walk?” she asked.
Opal looked out the window. A gray overcast filled the sky. Leaves hung on trees—orange, yellow, red. She watched one fall. It twirled and almost seemed to shine against the dark day.
She put on her red jacket and her brown shoes.
I know I usually post fiction, but I recently wrote this essay about my dog Gizmo, who died last week. He was such a constant companion, so I wanted to honor him here.
Gizmo’s water and food bowls sat atop a doggie placemat, a black one with a white paw decorating its left bottom corner. Gizmo knew that placemat was his dining room, situated close to our own table and right next to the back door. When we lifted it up yesterday, we noticed the rectangular shape of the mat remained; that portion of the cork tile was decidedly darker than the rest of the floor—a permanent tattoo.