cold, drizzling half-mile walk through cracked ice and sidewalk slush to the corner of county park yesterday, past raised residential yards and ornamental trees sleeping 'til spring, our aim set for the opposite corner of the park, but no entrance in sight. we started to follow the perimeter of the park to look for one, but then my friend stopped in the parking lot and eyed the snowbank. "do you want to try crossing here?" i asked. i hoped she'd say no. if there was a path between the trees, the whiteness obscured it. "yes. yes, i would," she said, and plunged into the woods without further ado.
that's how we ended up at a workshop on sugar maple tapping, an array of tins and jars and manuals (favorite title: BACKYARD SUGARIN') on the instructor's desk, two pots smoking on camp stove burners, an eyedropperful of syrup on the back of everyone's hands, a dixie cup of tree sap for everyone who trekked outside with her in the flurry that started while we sat inside, paper handouts for anyone who wanted them, a ragtag room of adults as giddy as kids with the wonder of botany. (no maples in our yard that anyone knows of, but my friend sequestered a fallen branch in her backpack for comparisons.)
"holy smokes, that's a big dog," she'd said a moment into our park transversal earlier, huge pawprints on the ground everywhere, the perfect trace of wolf to her hooded red raincoat in the winter woods. two hours later, we finished our walk home by talking out our thoughts about catholicism, community social rituals, and the beliefs that could bring someone to threaten someone they loved with damnation. maybe in unconscious abeyance to all of those fairytale cues, and maybe not, - maybe because when it's cold and snow is falling, it's writen in our nature to think about hearth and family, like it's written into maple sap to start flowing every winter, and that's where all the fairytales came from, - our conversation revolved around her grandmother.
on today's agenda: splitting logs, sweeping ashes, wheelbarrowing wood, and cozying up to a sleeping cat by the warmth of a cast-iron stove, all of it one mile away from the dormitories that i called my home for four years. who knew?
mom picking out a melody on the toy piano for elena, then taking her hands and repeating it, ever the hopeful soviet music teacher of reluctant american students -- later, falling asleep in a rocking chair with elena snoozing in a shawl in her lap -- lena tapping away at her online master's degree homework all afternoon -- yuri home late from work -- charlie bounding in from the groomer's, exactly as big as elena -- a floor blanket full of toys -- some of them talk to her in her own name (story material there) -- overstimulation -- an astro-bouncy-all-purpose-rotating playchair that looks like it could be a time machine or a personal space unit -- elena getting her noise and her rage out in it -- the rest of us doing it at the dinner table with a giant headache fight -- crunchy car-sliding snow drive home, ohmygod -- a stop at mom's hotel -- a bittersweet driveway 'bye -- unresolved everything --
stella the cat sleeping behind my shoulders, jen the person sleeping in an armchair across the room, cherri writing on a sheet of kraft paper with a well-worn pencil in the next chair over, dan and dave talking about mountain climbing gear for an unguided ecuador ramble, caiden playing her guitar, michigan brewed beer bottles holding melted candles in the unwired bathroom, frost over the greenhouse glass, gestating plants in ankle-high soil, knee-deep snow everywhere, a newly shoveled path to the bicycle shed, and an almost-red wheelbarrow full of ash logs on the back step (how everything depends on it).
mom & dad are thinking about taking the car to the mitten to see their grandbaby, but if i can't switch my days at work, i'm a no-show.
mom: i'll rent you a car while we're gone. me: no way, i'll ride my bike. mom: absolutely not. me: it's the most straightforward two-mile commute ever. there are sidewalks the whole way there. mom: but it's cold outside! how can you bicycle on the ice? what if you have to come home in the dark? nuh-uh, no way. me: it's cheaper. mom: how can you think i would leave you like that? i wouldn't leave a dog like that. i hope nobody would leave me like that. it's cold outside. what if it snows? there's an intersection. how you gonna cross the intersection? it's crazy. me: i have to grow up someday. mom: NOT EVEN A DOG.