Being Small and Still

Since I can remember, one of my life's greatest joys has been planning and finding remote and interesting places to visit, new places my eyes have never seen before. I dream of (someday) Namibia's sand dunes and the cliffs of Oman, and before we ever visited, the plains and peaks of Patagonia. Novelty has been nearly an addiction, perhaps. Seeing new things, researching trips where a new landscape, vista, culture or food is housed: I can't help myself. Each January, I spend full Saturdays planning trips and sorting out logistics. It is one of my favorite months.


Where we are now is quite close to the opposite. Now is a time for finding the novel, the new, in a space familiar and normal. Sometimes, it is not even finding something new, but feeling the old in new ways. Sometimes it is just letting the old, or now-walked-over-forty-times path be what it is: the same. 


To write better poetry, my job is to improve my vision. I have to work at making my sight, and my senses, more richly attuned. Watching more closely is the poet's real art. Finding the closest metaphor to describe something that I can. A friend in NYC texted me she wishes me there to write poetry about the sounds in NYC right now: it is quiet with just birdsong and ambulances, she tells me. I listen where I am: a refrigerator's fan. Classical music from another room. Heated water gushing through pipes. The sounds of the suburbs.


When I'm in a new place, I don't have to work hard at the art of watching, or listening, because it is all new, and I can skim the cream off the top. But here, where we walk and bike the same trails daily, I am watching harder.


 This weekend, from under the just-melted lakes: the squeals, almost quacks, of tadpoles coming to life. A woman with a walker stands next to a small pond and exclaims: "There are frogs!" Live pussy willows on a tree, which I've only see dried in buckets in craft stores before. Their soft pods are too far for me to reach without falling in the lake, and so I touch with my eyes. Green floor cover in the forest, but ever so slowly, comes.


Seasonality is gaining new meaning for me. In New York, I watch the overall temperature, but I don't long for, yearn for a change. I get it now.


I am growing my patience with waiting for signs of spring. I watch the buds on the tips of trees dangling with thin skeletons of leaves and wish for them to break. A few leaves, daily, float in front of our path, their very end. Never have I wished so hard over days for a season. The green is building, but can hardly be seen yet.


We biked at lunch today, and there in the middle of the lake, was the head of loon, so distinct in its funneled shape. Our first.


The way the barren branches dip into the still lake, so still I cannot tell where water and the lattice of branches begins and ends.


The smell of the thawed lakes is like the ground after frost: soft and fresh and filtered.


Yesterday, when we didn't have the camera, a butterfly the exact color of the dried leaves, its body furry and brown, with dipped spots of bright blue landed near us and I crouched watching it vibrate in the grass. Other days, the cardinals surprise me, and I think of my sweet grandma who loves them so, although can no longer see them. I'm seeing them for her.


Now, the fallen skeletons of the trees look like whale bones, Walker says, and the rub of our bike tires in dried leaves sounds like fall. Soon it will all be sheathed in the palest of greens. 


Right now, we are feeling the ache of time. We are missing home. We are grieving with friends. We are antsy and waiting for wings to form and waiting for the ice to crack and waiting for the bark to burst. We are here. Waiting, with impatience and hope together.