snow cake

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Another snow day.

Even the flakes seem confused. They blow sideways and in both directions at once. Some snowflakes rush my office window as if seeking the comfort of indoors. I turn my space heater on.

Raisins, apricots, and candied lemon peel are soaking in a bath of brandy and vanilla. I am baking a Christmas cake. It should take all day. When your office and kitchen share a wall, time is marked in new ways: articles read between proves.

Sometimes it feels easier to look back rather than forward. Other nights I dream 100 years into the future. We will have whales. Bicycles. And gondolas.

Some mornings I scan recipes and get stuck on the ones I will cook on hot summer days. When I have fresh fruit and greens straight from the farm rather than my freezer. I bookmark the pages and return to old comfort foods. With brown sugar and cloves. Cheese and pasta. And bread. Always more bread.

And bread takes time. Lately, I have plenty of that.

 

a little thing

I noticed the first taps appear around the first week of March. A single metal spout affixed to an old roadside maple tree. That’s when I began noticing others.

An intricate web of orange tubing threaded around and between a patch of woods I saw while out on a run. It appeared to be holding the whole forest together. I imagined maybe it would collapse if you removed just one tree.

The pandemic arrived around the same time. Likely earlier. Perhaps the first taps arrived earlier, too.

So I wrote a thing. You can find it here.

maybe

IMG_9514I strung white Christmas lights onto our porch Friday—a mere three months after the holiday.

A woman in Montpelier suggested people put them back up. Light in a time of darkness. The idea has resonated with many residents as it appears so many of us are collectively holding our breath. A physician friend did the math: we needed more respirators and masks two months ago.

Time is a funny thing. It is slippery. Stretchy. Undisciplined.

Twelve days ago the world sighed and shook our old house in Utah and rattled my coworkers. What in the world? That felt like last year.

Every morning my three-year-old asks “Am I going to preschool this day?”

He knows that he used to go to school Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Now those days come, and he is still at home with both parents who for some reason don’t have time to play on all the new weekend days. He dumps his Legos onto the kitchen table and builds plastic cities that he destroys moments later. When it’s time for nap he demurs on cleanup.

“It will take a thousand years,” he says.

After nap I take him out for walks along the abandoned logging road behind our house. The creeks are flowing with snowmelt. We fish rocks out of the water with reddened fingers. Some we take home. The rest we toss. There isn’t anything truly special about the ones that make it into his backpack.

“Is it spring yet?” he asks as we stomp through patches of snow.

He waves his walking stick and tells me about his birthday party this summer—all his preschool friends will be there. He wants a chocolate cake with strawberry icing.

I do the math.

“Maybe,” I say.

 

with gloves on

The tip off was the pile of mail. Then the car. When did it move last? A week ago? Two?

A well-meaning neighbor came with a key. A stench that has taken weeks to tame. My friend was the nearest next of kin. 800 miles away. She drove across the mountains to the plains to sort through bags tagged safe by the biohazard cleanup crew. The coroner said there would be no identification of the body.

“I walked through her entire life, with gloves on,” she said.

She brought a box home containing her relative’s paperwork. Her will. Her bills. The box has to stay outside. She has to build a box for the box. The smell of decay had permeated the pages within.

Her relative’s death occurred one day in the middle of summer. A death that eventually, got noticed. The coroner doesn’t know exactly when.

The relative died before the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Before the two mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. The relative died in her home. A private death. One caused, most likely, by the illnesses that often accompany advanced age. She was older than all of the shooting victims killed in the last 10 days.

In that sense, she was lucky. She died alone. But she had at least considered her death. She had directives: Do not get rid of my books. No services.

My friend is grieving. Any death of a loved one causes an unsettling feeling. Their last moments are wondered about. Were they afraid? Were they ready? What did we last talk about?

These questions, of course, lead to other questions.

Will I be alone, too? Will I make it to old age? Will my children?

Or will they get snuffed out in their prime? At a festival. In a bar. In their house of worship. In their school.

Will anyone with power give a damn? Or will there just be a collective shrug? A turning of the page before the next forced pause when we consider the whereabouts of our loved ones and count our blessings.

When will the deaths be enough?

Dear Sam,

It’s snowing again. Big feathery flakes that swarm and disappear upon hitting the pavement.

You and I are winter babies. Born in the season of forced quiet. When the snow can feel both magical and cloistering at once. Perhaps this is why your signature expression is a wrinkled brow.

I wonder if you will be my serious child. If you will observe the world before engaging with it. At four weeks old, you appear to know more than you should.

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Lately, you’ve begun to study me. Your eyes—a blue so dark they look charcoal—reveal nothing as they scan my face. Do you trust me I wonder? Do I trust me I wonder?

Every day I rest you on my knees to stare into your eyes. You respond with a frown that seems to ask why have you summoned me here? And then you stretch your tiny arms, arching back into the nothing behind you. Because you do not know fear. You just know that my hands are there to support you.

I suppose this will be our lifelong dance.

But for now, let’s sit together by the fire. Let me just listen to you breathe and watch the snow. Let’s learn each other as we wait for the melting to begin.

Love,

Mama

reflections on a pregnancy

It is a strange feeling to have someone hiccup inside of you. And yet, also strangely comforting.

I’m in the final month of what is likely my last pregnancy. Sometimes I look down and watch my belly shape shift and wonder about the creature breaching like a dolphin beneath my skin. I feel aquatic. And I feel lucky.

This baby came so easily after the last pregnancy faded. I remember standing in the bathroom after my third pregnancy test just waiting to see the double blue lines appear. But I never really doubted them. I just silently noticed when a new week turned over and the baby was still here.

Sometimes, in this era of modern medicine, I think we forget how risky childbirth can be. How the body, growing another body, is risking its own. It is a burden that only women carry. And there are no guarantees. Just best intentions.

I know a woman who tried for years to have a baby – just one baby – until she could not try anymore. I know a man who waited for nine months to hold his child and never once heard it breathe before he put it in the ground.

Once, I interviewed a 16 year-old who lived on the streets of Austin and was pregnant with her second child. Perched on the exam table in her doctor’s office, she held her  tummy and talked about her hopes for her baby. Mostly, she wanted to be a better mom than she was with her son, she said wiping away tears.

“Well, you’re here now,” I told her before turning my face to my notes so she wouldn’t see my eyes.

At the time, I was struggling with infertility. I was heartbroken. For her, for me. Both in situations we desperately wanted to fix, but didn’t quite know how.

Two thousand miles and four years later, my life is unrecognizable. It’s snowing. Flakes so tiny they look like dust. Toy trucks are scattered on the floor.

The baby has stopped hiccuping. I think it is sleeping. Rest up, little one. I have so much to tell you.

alright

My two year-old is afraid of trolls. Lions. And deer. He thinks they will find their way inside our house and into his room at night. “I don’t want the animals to come,” he says, before plugging his mouth with his thumb. And while climbing the stairs for bed he asks what is underneath his bed.

Where does fear come from? Sometimes I think it’s too soon. Give him a few more years to fall in love with the world before recoiling from it. But I suppose it is human nature to be afraid of what can consume you.

The book where he first learned of trolls has vanished from the shelf even though he hasn’t asked to read it in a week. When tucking him in at night, I reassure him that lions live far away in Africa. Which is true. I tell him that he would need two planes, at least, to get there. I do not tell him that mountain lions roam the national forest that is our backyard. That I have seen their footprints in the snow. And that I have turned back when running certain empty trails just because I had a feeling I should.

Sometimes he runs around the house yelling “roar! Mama roar!” He likes being chased until the moment he believes a mother might really be able to transform into a lion. In his world, I know the answers to all questions. I am the keeper of safety. The chaser of bad dreams. It might even be possible for me to take flight.

The other afternoon he pointed to the sky, his cheeks reddened from the snow-scrubbed air, and demanded “fly like the birds, mama!” I kept my smile and looked up at sparrows overhead.

Afterward I snapped an icicle off the forsythia bush and placed it in his mittened hands. “You can’t eat it,” he told me. “Oh you can,” I responded. He slowly brought it to his lips and tasted the ice. His eyes sparkled. Then he cracked the tip off with his teeth and crunched on the cold.

“The world is alright” I said.