This morning I woke to our first signifcant snowfall. (Although Mike, who delivers the dog food his wife makes, said yesterday they’d already had 42″ at his place about 40 miles away out by the border, with a good 18″ still on the ground.) It was a surprise to sink into it when I stepped off the porch. I had assumed it was a dusting, and it turned out to be ankle deep, and then at the end of the driveway I had to bust through the state plow’s berm, and follow the pioneer lane it left to town, where the only rigs about in the dark were the other snow clearers. The blue and red flashing lights of graders, loaders, a dump truck. Winter. It’s very pretty. Clean and quiet. At the pool, we were all full of the kind of thrill the complaining brings. The garden is not put to bed. The wood needs stacking. The snow tires aren’t on. A woman who lives south of town– where there was less snow– said “of course” she wore her low cut rubber boots and left her tall Xtra Tuffs at home. The mayor’s mother said that her road wasn’t plowed yet ( her way here was all down hill).She hoped it would be cleared by noon. “But I’m not going to worry about it.”
Two years ago I joined a Covid writing workshop with Orion magazine. Pam Houston was the leader. We were all women, from all over, and when it was done most of us kept meeting monthly on Zoom. We are friends now. At Wednesday’s Zoom, Katy Payne, our beloved elder, read three new poems. One was about a party at her friend Peggy’s house- after she had died– and how much fun they all had. The way she wrote made us feel like we too knew Peggy. She had never married or born children and she danced in her high field, and built her own house up there with a beam in it for a swing that she sat on and watched the moon– and so now I miss Peggy too. I also miss my father and my mother and my neighbor Betty and sailing on Long Island Sound when I was 12.
Katy Payne (85) studied whale songs and elephants and music— she proved that whales use rhymes in their songs and sing to each other. Her research on their communication and community-sense changed the way we view those giant, gentle, intelligent creatures. (I watched her give a Zoom lecture at Cornell on some of this. She invited our group.) After Katy shared her verses about Peggy she said that a lot of poems and essays begin with ecstasy and end in despair. She advised we writers– and humans– to “skip the despair” — since, as she put it, “despair comes from the anticipation of bad news,” and because it hasn’t yet happened yet, we might as well stay in the joyful present, as that is all we have. This moment, this day. These people. This wonderful one and only wild and precious –and sometimes snowy– life, as another poet said.