Pearls fell from the sky that day, painted the windows
opalescent, drifted against the front door. Tired
woodland hit silently the snow, and geese
honked overhead in the quiet spaces of a
cloud. In the Northeast, familiar is the weight of
winter. Power soon was lost, cars spun out on roads,
and the trees, the great pines of Canton, as day wore on,
wailed and groaned with burden, and began to spill like
discordant dominoes into yards, streets, over
homes, and upon a little girl, and a father, related
only by chance, two names in the paper, hours apart.
It blustered morning through night where we live,
thirty miles south of Canton, layer upon layer of
white sitting atop shrubs, maples, oaks. We watched
the spectacle from the bay window, the lower
boughs of our spruce giving in to the heft of the storm,
the clock at half past two, we were not yet aware
of the girl who was pinned below a notched green
pine, her brief, immutable beauty engraved in snow.
Later, we would hear about the father who, in the
dark of night, stepped on the blue ice of a hockey
rink he made for his family, swept snow from
where a left wing player might set his stick, not
sensing the windthrow that would undercut another
Like an ancient song—the body beats and aligns with
wildness, hears not hazard, but echoes of whispering
air, winter wolves, featherless birds, and empty nests.
The body replies. Last April, I remember:
Undeterred by a forecast—high winds, rains—a hike
through the Shenandoah with my children and husband,
presuming time would usher us safely through. But
midway, by steep falls, where we lingered, dipping
our hands in thawed currents, the tempest swept
through—a brume of iron. We raced to the top of the
ridge, by the edge of the winding road, almost there, so
close to the shelter of our car, when a chunk of
oak sprung from its mast and cut a backslash of beading
blood across my chest. I had not seen it coming, I felt
only the gust, heard only the split of woods, before I
was clipped. I remember thinking, finally. And then the
sudden flood of gratitude, and the ebb of fear, finding
only myself injured.
Listen, there is no pretense when one mother
weeps for another’s loss, wishes to be taken, instead.
Was there a lull that afternoon in Canton? Is that
when the girl went out? I imagine her in her pink
winter coat and lined pants, white earmuffs, flitting about
in the glimmer, pure as bird flight, and her mother,
peering out the window. The father who died in the
dark: I can see his heavy snow boots, the biting wind,
his stubborn lumber to the ice arena, where he
barely hears the break, does not see the fall of the conifer,
thinking, as he is, of his young ones, inside,
lacing their skates.
Published in Literary Mama, January 2017.