Black Friday

And then the snow.  On the cusp of Advent.  I mop and vacuum, just in case the paramedics may need to carry one of us away.  It is the season of preparation. Since watching the Great British Baking Show, we’ve taken to eating shortbread in the evenings and after several boxes, we’ve taken to making them on our own.  There are days when I only want to be surrounded by butter. This is the way of winter. I collect kinnikinnick and rose hip by Rattlesnake Creek. The snow is fluff on a feathery virgin’s bower.  Tiny snowflakes make me think of toe-to-head flannel pajamas. The woods by the water wrap me in this memory – all is well, all shall be well. I kneel on frozen cobbles, snow swirling the towering conifers, and remember a fractured femur can sever an artery, causing one to bleed internally, a drop of blood never to be seen.  Fatty emboli may travel to unwelcome places. The rent is due – no worry. A deer crosses as if I do not exist – thank you. To say I am still processing what happened four months ago – rushing from the backyard at the sound of cracking, the car slowly landing against a cedar tree – Dennis curling to his side, his legs bent the wrong way – the mountain people filling our front yard, their caring hands – the pillows I gathered to support his body – and then the hospital time — to remember is a matter-of-fact practice. Each time we tell the story, I wonder if the horror will finally kick in and I’ll collapse in tears – how, once again, he skirted death’s edges.  I cried once with my mother, mostly out of fear that I was suddenly trapped in Arkansas, and tears of joy each time Dennis turned a corner, but the tears of shock, of being shaken senselessly, of terror have not come. In its place, it seems, there is only wonder for what happened and the even more perplexing astonishment over how the injuries were severe yet fixable and the pure child-like awe, the peace felt along the way. I only learned how much worse the trauma could have been after renewing my Wilderness First Aid training a few weeks ago. So, I eat shortbread, too much, and with it, lots of milk in short, frosted glasses. I clean and watch comedy specials, and Dennis and I make each other laugh with our own morbid humor about getting run over by a car, and I am not seized by anything frightful.  Instead, I go to work, visit with students and potential students, track spreadsheets, attend meetings, plan for the future – prepare and contemplate the ways I can be a better teacher, a better human. All the while, some part of me is highly disoriented by how smooth things have been, how well I’ve handled everything. Frankly, I’m thrown off by my calm. Shouldn’t there be a catharsis? Or a deep-sigh-of-satisfaction-moment like summiting a peak? Of course, there’ve been hundreds – the moment we learned Dennis’s heart rate lowers when he sings – we sang and cried together in ICU – or even the moment when paramedics arrived and Dennis joked with them about having now found a way to stay in Arkansas. The sum of these daily miracles, however, leaves me wanting. Perhaps the true shock is having developed a strength I never realized was growing inside me – as if I went to the gym in my sleep and am now reaping the benefits without intention.  There is only one place that hears this confusion, soothes this odd daze. I wish I could say it is church, but lately that’s not the case. When I sit at the water’s edge in a place full of wildness, the land’s stillness makes me still, and I hear the words: This is who you are, in this winter-silenced world – be still, be here now – breathe and know this is enough. And sometimes there are no words, and there is true silence which is nothing like quiet or being without sound but rather a state of ordinary tranquility. And then the snow. 

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