They barrel down the street, backpacks swaying as night gives way to winter grey. Ben found ice. Ice! he yells. There is something about the two of them this morning. Knotty bedhead, mittens damp with yesterday's slip into the creek. The schoolbus pulls away in a cloud of exhaust and I walk home along the edge of the field, looking forward to tea and a fire, cycling peacefully through love; death; toast.
Marriage or parenthood change us as we expect them to, within fair boundaries, most often pleasantly so. You become a couple and there are more elbows and feet. You laugh at the same stuff. You suffocate a little. There is laundry. You say 'we'. He sees welts on your neck from absent-minded scratching and he says You're doing it again. It's nice that he does that. You have a failsafe chili, three soups, a hot dip. Everybody likes the same crackers. You never buy Farmers' milk. Only Scotsburn. You are changed in whatever way is your way. You are merged, both hard work and ease.
Walking to my home along the edge of a field feeling soft and distant and curious: Liam's death was unchartered. The ground hummed and the wind had hands. Six years later, there's a fondness, almost, for the only time in my life that I've ever been genuinely strung out. A decade ago I'd watch from the bus as junkies staggered across East Hastings Street in Vancouver. I'd sit compressed in the manner of public transit, chin in my hand, and follow them until I couldn't anymore, taken away by green lights and vanishing lines. Was he pulled or pushed here? ... What does she see?
They'd hang on to street posts while inanimate things talked back. In them I saw an amplified awareness of all that was menacing, the ghosts and demons and sorcery denied to unaltered states. I saw feet of either four hundred pounds or feathers, a ground of frozen molasses and fly paper, buildings made of fists. And something else that was, as much as it was killing them, exquisite.
I need a hurricane cap for the stovepipe in the shed. Water from the last northeaster blew in and trickled through, leaving a puddle on the slate and splatters of rust on the woodstove that need to be scrubbed off with steel wool and rubbed again with blackening paste. The back windows need glazing, priming, two more coats of paint. I need mulch for the garden; the electrician for a back door light; insulation for the dining room; dad's iron fork to rip out sod and make a bed of soil along the back of the house; more trips to the greenhouse; a better axe to chop the scrap wood for kindling.
I love this list.
I take apart a stack of photo albums, removing their contents in favour of one box. I look at how small I was, yet I didn't know. I held nothing in because there was nothing to hold in. I imagine telling that girl what was to happen. She wouldn't believe it, but she wouldn't believe that list, either.
I love it so much.
I wondered if I should explain the past year's news reporting here (what I am doing, what I did) as compared to crafted thought or emotional exposure, but I couldn't stand to even try. The only meta discourse I'm comfortable with is when somebody goes onto a football field and lines up tiny salted caramels into giant words that say DO YOU LIKE SALTED CARAMELS, and then I eat the S, the A, the L, the T, and the E, but then it says DO YOU LIKE D CARAMELS and now it looks grammatically ridiculous, so I have to eat the D too.
Karen Maezen Miller: I just haven’t wanted to say anything for awhile. That’s not true, I’ve wanted to say a lot, but I haven’t said what didn’t need to be said. ... 'The motto for becoming genuine: nothing is gained by speaking.' — Hongzhi
It has been delicious.