Saturday, January 05, 2008

a brief hour in winter

If I stop to clean up the smattering of potting soil unearthed by my cat, then I will water and worry over the herb garden. It could use some attention, but so could the window sill. If I stop to brush the beach sand from my boots, to remove the clementine rind—if I stop, in the middle of my intent to watch this window, to soak up the sun, then another day will pass, and who knows when the sun will shine again? If I stop to do a single chore, I might get caught up in the next thing and the next, which is what usually happens, and then the sadness grips me at sunset, the sunlight missed.

One o’clock in the afternoon, Madeleine and I arrive back home, half frozen from an attempted beach walk on this bitter-cold day. She settles into the saucer-shaped chair she tips into a nest, tucked in with a stack of preadolescent magazines full of jokes and puzzles. I silently hand her two clementines, with a “start” where my thumbnail carves into the center, to make it easy to peel.

The spray from the clementine peel throws a scented mist six inches into the sunlight. I can’t remember the last time I noticed, can’t forget this scene when I open the next. I brush the rosemary in its terra cotta pot when I place the peels on the sill, wondering if rosemary's scent also travels in a mist, if I could only look closely enough.

And I sit down—I’ve not done this in days, this simple act. Two clementines for me, and a glass of water, three books and a literary journal. A too-cooled cup of coffee, my own journal and a pen, a hard-shell case for my glasses. On the floor, the sandy boots, my messenger bag, the Irish cable-knit fisherman’s sweater in heathered greens. The laundry churns on the far side of the kitchen—I conceded to this one chore. I’d preserve the winter silence but I’m wearing the last turtleneck in my drawer. My slacks sport a collection of lint and a tuft of cat-fur near the hem.

Half an hour passed since I started to write. I’ve sketched out two topics in my journal, begun a book annotation. The sun will abandon this window in another half hour, and we’ll begin the shift from the too-sunny room to the winter perch.

This means of course that I ought to be peeling that butternut squash and thawing that beef for stew… perhaps I can get away with slicing that pork loin into chops, instead, yes, that will be fine and will allow me this small luxury of sun.

Already, the wall under the window cools and I scramble for the wool socks I shed when we came in. Soon I’ll need the sweater, too.

By two-fifteen the sun slants across from the right side of the bay window to the left, and the rest of the living room goes cold. I transfer the laundry to the dryer, don my sweater, and go off in search of my wool slippers. I sweep up the potting soil and beach sand and sure enough the hours between 2:15 and 4:15 disappear. The table is cleared for dinner, the floors swept, and Madeleine potted the amaryllis she received for her birthday. Pink sunlight reflects off of a window half a mile away on the ridge, and bathes the living room so fully that we read the shadows of our paper snowflakes on the far wall.

Golden sunrise, azure midday, pink winter-sky evening. It’s cold enough that the sea smoke lasted until noon today, drifting over the harbor in wisps.

Darkness now, and time to start dinner. Two hungry fellas ought to be arriving any minute, on this, one of the last days of kids’ winter break. Next week I’ll be back to the discipline of writing and reading, impossible this past two weeks. I’m eager to get started, soon. And I’m congratulating myself for an hour in the sun, today.


Carine said...

except for the walk in the bitter cold, it sounds as if it was quite a nice day. It's been cold and rainy here in SoCal. I've been trying to read between catching up around here. I must finish the book, it has a book review I must attend too.
Funny how our weekends always seem to pass so quickly with the pleasantries of everyday life.

Byron K. Borger said...

beautifully written, again.

Do words like this---azure; cable-knitted sweater---just come to you naturally, or to you have to pause and think, word by word? I think you see the word in such blessed colors, and, although I gather it is work, it is also gift and giftedness. I use the same tired cliches over and over (I'm exicted about a good book, think a great read is highly recommended, a fun author is delightful. Well, maybe not all that bad, but too often.) You, though, think it an expansive vocabulary, shaped by a rich worldview. Thanks for sharing it.