Ice

February 24, 2015 § 31 Comments

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Maybe what cold is, is the time we measure the love we have always had, secretly, for our own bones. – Mary Oliver

The first snow flakes were half-hearted. I reminded myself I am so far below the Mason Dixon line that any snow here would be a fluke. And then the flakes got fatter and faster. By the time I folded some laundry and emptied the dishwasher, snow was definitely lining the porch railings. Even me – with my ability to bury my head in the sand – couldn’t deny the ground was white.

School had been closed before the snow even started, and the boys dug through a box of hats and gloves in the closet and went out with their friends, all of them off to the sledding hill and dragging their summer boogie boards behind them, the leashes improbably being used as tobaggon handles. The dog came out with me and spun and danced and tried to eat the freezing rain as it fell. We were out for so long I could no longer feel my face and Wags’ coat became frozen and clumped in sections. I remembered one of the things I comforted myself with during the scorching days of summer was that at least, living in North Carolina meant I wouldn’t have to walk around with ice in my hair during the winter. But it turns out I was wrong about that. It was like the sweet thought I had on my wedding day, that having a husband meant I would never be alone again.

Scott has been gone for nine months now, and I am weary. I feel ancient. I had thought the initial sadness and missing him would pass but it hasn’t. He is still gone and I see now he is the roots to my waving branches. When he was home for Christmas I felt everything settle, the way it does after an earthquake. When I woke up at night, I heard his breathing, and in the morning, he made coffee calmly and methodically – without pausing between scoops to make oatmeal or get water for the dog or take a handful of vitamins, the way I do.

Now I am back to being alone and waiting for the real mom to show up, the expert who knows what to do when my son says  “NO!” and the kids at school are forming cliques, and the teacher assigns those ridiculous word problems. Most days, I can fake it well enough that the veneer holds. I pack the lunches and uncrumple the homework. I dole out as many hugs as I can and sweep up the piles of leaves and bark that always fall out of Gus’ pockets. I try not to freak out when I get frustrated. I drive back and forth to the gym to teach yoga, but lately, I have been feeling like a fraud. I keep thinking that it shouldn’t be me up in the front of the room because I am just about certain that everyone can hear the anxiety and sadness and apathy clanking behind me like tin cans on a string.

Walking in the cold with the dog this morning, I listened to the particular silence of snow which is the exact sound of being alone. WIth Scott gone, I have been forced to look at the tree without leaves, the bare ground without a tropical swath of color, the grey sky without its oppulance of blue. My eyes have been turned towards all of those lonely and vast spaces inside, all of those corners haunted by self-doubt and fear and the smoldering ashes of anger’s old fire. When Scott was here, I had distractions and we had plans. I didn’t have the long stretch of bedtime to test my patience or the dark nights to mock my courage.

Now, I am like the tree in the front yard dropping icicles. These parts of myself I had thought were so solid are now showing themselves as brittle costumes, and it’s like that rotten old dream, the one where I have no clothes and am trying to hide behind a parking meter. My diet is irratic and inconsistent, sometimes consisting of food people normally turn into meals, and other days, I alternate green smoothies with bites of chocolate. Dinner is sometimes peanut butter on a pear and other times, a bowl full of pasta. I am still meditating consistently but I am hardly practicing yoga, sometimes managing 54 minutes, but never an hour. I tell myself it’s because my shoulder hurts, and this is somewhat true, but it’s a deeper frustration, a fear that there are some things yoga can’t fix.

Next week, an orthopedist is going to finally cut into my rotator cuff and fix the tear there, and I feel a mix of terror at the nakednes of it all and relief, that finally – maybe – the ache behind my heart will be repaired, that once again, I will be able to do a chatarunga and lift my arm over my head without the pinch of pain and the somber reminder of my impassable limits. I will be under anesthesia and then in a sling, forbidden for weeks to drive or write or chop carrots. It is both mortifying and terrifying to give up these central pillars of control, and yet, it also feels like sliding deeper into the stillness I entered months ago, a winter that has nothing to do with the ice outside.

This afternoon the boys came inside with a friend and I became swept up in the wonderful familiarity of trying to make food quickly enough to keep pace with their ravenous appetites. I listened to them talk about Legos while cutting apples and making hot chocolate and cleaning puddles of melting snow from the floor. When the kitchen was filled with their loud voices I felt like myself again – that person I was so sure I was. But then they ran upstairs to build a new Lego base, and it was quiet again – just me in the room listening to the freezing rain hit the windows. I watched as a curl of panic rose up like a specter and began to claw at the edges of the silence. The frightened ghost was me and not me. Maybe she is a piece of me, in a bathing suit, crouching behind a parking meter, trying to hide from the cold.

In December, in one of my yoga classes, I talked about the Celtic goddess Calilleach, who rules winter. She is a hooded old crone with perfect eyesight who freezes the ground with her staff and drops stones from her apron to form hills and mountains. I have been thinking about her again now, about her sharp discernment and her ability to lay the burden of her burdens down, allowing those heavy stones to slip from her pockets and fall. Without fanfare or nostalgia, she drops them, exposing them to the harsh winds of winter, and allows them to be shaped into something beautiful.

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