Stopping by woods on a snowy afternoon
There is something fortifying about making new tracks in freshly fallen snow.
The walk to the mailbox was silent and still except for the scolding of a blue jay. I must remember to refill the bird feeder.
An urgent nicker followed me down the lane. It was a quiet pleading for “More hay, please. Or grain, whichever. Or an apple. An ear of corn? Certainly fine. Anything will do!” At least that’s what I imagined him saying to me across the frozen pasture. “Soon enough, Charlie, soon enough,” I told him as my boots crunched on snowy gravel and his hooves punched through a crust of frozen grass.
A shiver trickled down the back of my neck and an icy breeze slashed my cheeks. Brrr. They say it will get colder through the day and the wind chill will be minus something. I believe.
So I stock up.
The outdoor burner keeps the house warm but it can’t stop the chill of icy drafts when the temperature falls below 10. Those breezy chills find their way through tiny cracks in this old, cold house. So I haul and stack and fire up the little indoor wood stove. Soon it will be radiating heatwaves and that suits me just fine.
Because I’m cold. And it occurs to me I’m also slightly spoiled. I can add more wood and turn up the heat worry-free. There are no heating bills here, save for the sore muscles of my lumberjack and his crew of young stackers. Those bills I can pay, though, with warm food for hungry bellies and an occasional back rub.
We congregate near the fire. My homeschool kids play out the final days of Christmas break with their version of poker. An occasional penny rolls across the floor. I yearn for warmth, too. Today I abandon my desk for the lumpy, second-hand chair with the cozy old quilt that’s soft as butter. I sip hot coffee and aim my toes at the stove, doing my best to drown out the sounds of shrieking card sharks. I find inspiration from the view out the window.
No, it’s not distracting at all. Or maybe it is, in an uber-creative sort of way. Ideas filter in like falling flakes. Foodie inspiration comes from cardinals and jays flocking around the feeder, now overflowing with corn and seeds.
I find my muse here. I fill the empty spaces with words and use the pale landscape as a canvas for brainstorming. I give homage to the electrical wonder on my lap and the magical miracle of a world wide web that connects me to the people I need and the subjects I conquer. It’s a fine balance, this working-from-home situation. My equilibrium is half hubbub, half detachment.
I’m almost 40. I’m starting to revel in my slowly-earned wisdom. I’m starting to keep the boundaries I’ve always yearned to set. I’ve started to say what I think and mean what I say. I rage against the machine on occasion. And I feel slightly perturbed and also proud that in the last month two people have used the word ‘radical’ to describe my emphatically stated opinions on a number of things.
Funny. I don’t feel radical. Perhaps frumpy is a better word? No. Just settled. Challenged — yes, but also grounded and confident in what I know … most of the time. Should that resolve ever falter I need only to sit in front of my fire and focus on what I know to be true. Kid chaos in the background is a good reality check.
There’s a place for radical and there’s a place for living. It’s ok to meander back and forth as long as ideals remain true. I may venture to the wild side on occasion but I’m perfectly happy to hole up here and watch the snow fall, fill my bird feeder and share ideas and stitched-together-words with a keyboard and an Internet connection.
After I’ve hit “send” on my latest and greatest, I scuff worn slippers into the kitchen and cut and slice apples and onions into a cast iron skillet. I pretend it really is this simple. Maybe, just maybe, it is. We get lost in the shuffle of busy, of bureaucratic bungling, of the perpetual myth that we need more. Luckily I have firewood and family and open space to help me see. Which reminds me of a sign I saw and later posted on Facebook:
Think outside. No box required.