Cold, angry man stood
defiant, “Get off my lawn!”
I kicked his white ass
Because even when it seems like a gag gift, the present is still a gift
Cold, angry man stood
defiant, “Get off my lawn!”
I kicked his white ass
I took the puppy on his morning walk earlier today while it was snowing. He loves the snow. Loves it. Actually, love might be an understatement. He and his short legs hop through it like a casual rabbit inspecting a yard. He buries his face in it and comes up with his black, button nose covered in white. He flattens himself out into the corgi sploot, the spotted paw pads on his back feet facing the sky, and pulls himself along on his belly as if he is his own sled. His joy in the snow is contagious. And so I love walking him, especially when the snow is still falling and I can revel in his exuberance and the beauty of Mother Nature’s the-sky-is-falling impression.
The snow was powdery and low in moisture. It was so cold that my boots squeaked as I stepped through the snow. About two inches had fallen by the time I got home from carpool and got suited up in my Sorels and my waterproof ski jacket. As we rounded the corner onto the path that runs behind the houses on our side of the street, I noticed an area ahead where it looked like a dog might have rolled around trying to leave a doggy snow angel. When I got closer, though, I noticed there were no dog tracks. Odd, I thought, as I continued on. Next thing I knew my right foot slipped and, before I had the opportunity to save myself, I landed hard on my right side, my elbow and wrist bearing the brunt of the fall. I sat there on the ground a bit dazed for a few moments, and then I noticed there was pain in my shoulder too. Nice. Loki looked at me impatiently. You gonna sit in the snow all day, lady? I have sniffs to get, and we’re not getting any younger. At least now I knew why there had been that impression in the snow. It wasn’t a dog that had rolled but another person who, like me, took a digger. Too bad I hadn’t Sherlock Holmes-ed my way to that conclusion before I discovered there was ice under that snow.
I finished the walk by hobbling along on any grass I could find, hoping to avoid another fall. I made it home without another incident and began packing for my evening flight. Luke and I are flying to Portland for one last college visit. He was accepted into Reed College, but we weren’t able to do an in-person visit there before now because of the school’s Covid restrictions. When they sent Luke his acceptance letter, though, with a copy of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, it felt like Reed might just be a good fit for our fearless reader. So we are on our way to spend a couple hours with a student and see if this is his place.
At any rate, after my fall earlier and in anticipation of developing bruises and pain from my Ice Capades, I decided it might be prudent to add a heat pack to my bag. So I tossed in this eucalyptus-and-peppermint-scented neck wrap I bought off Etsy last year from the Flax of Life shop. The hotel room has a microwave, so I figured better safe than sorry. Getting older can be a bit of a bummer.
The snow stopped in time for our drive to the airport, and with a gorgeous sunset to our west over the Rockies I was feeling pretty confident about our trip. We got a spot in the garage and headed straight for the Clear queue at security. After I did my chalk outline impression in the millimeter wave scanning machine thing, I went to grab my carry on roller bag and noticed it was set off to the side. Well, crap. A TSA employee grabbed the bag and opened it up. She unzipped the portion where the heating pad was and took it out to test it for explosives, I guess, and as she did the stuffed dog I sleep with nightly fell out onto the inspection table. Of course it did. I stared at Elliott (that is his name) on that cold metal table and felt bad that he had been so unceremoniously outed. The residue test on my Etsy purchase came back negative for whatever nefarious crap they were testing it for, so she put it and my dear stuffy back into my bag. No harm, no foul. We were on our way.
There is a beautiful thing about getting older. Eventually you learn not to care. I mean, you still care about the important things, like your family and friends and the health of the planet and maybe the date the next season of Ted Lasso hits Apple TV. But you stop caring about little things you finally understand don’t matter at all and aren’t worth your brain power. I don’t care if the entire TSA line saw my stuffy sitting there (although Elliott might have words for me about it later). I don’t care if I had a heating pad in my bag for an injury I sustained while trying to walk and failing. I don’t care if any of the neighbors saw my less than graceful wipeout. What I do care about anymore is only what my circle of concerns contains. And it definitely does not contain any dignified concern about being exposed as a 53 year old who travels with a stuffed dog.
A friend was telling me today that she is sick of people on hiking web sites complaining about rock piles. I had to ask for clarification about this, but apparently people who are nature purists get quite bent about the rock cairns other people create to help mark a trail. These people feels this is an aberration in the whole “leave no trace” movement. All I have to say about these people is that they haven’t become wise with age. Because if you are lucky, as you age you learn not to give a flying figlet about things that don’t really matter. If you’re lucky, you get old enough to realize that you can only be shamed when your stuffed dog falls onto a TSA table if you decide to give that shaming power to someone else. You learn that there are only so many hours in a day, so righteous indignation about rock cairns might not be the best use of your precious time. You learn not to focus on small things you can’t control (an undignified, painful fall on some hidden ice) and only to focus on what you can control (putting a heating pad in your carry on bag). You learn to say “bless his heart” when an idiot in a lifted truck with truck nuts speeds around you and then cuts you off. You learn to let go.
Life is short. Walk the dog. Fall on ice. Take a trip. Enjoy the relief of a heating pad. Overlook the rock piles. And for holy hell’s sake, stop worrying so damn much. Everything will be fine.
“We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and to love the wrong people and die. I mean, the storybooks are bullshit.” ~Moonstruck
It’s a new year. And, although I understand that every day is a blank whiteboard upon which I can write the story of my life, there’s something about a new year that sucks me in. It’s not simply one 24-hour revolution. It’s a 365-day, brand new trek. There’s a faint whiff of that new year smell. There’s potential and promise and possibility rolled out before me. It all starts now.
When I was a child, my mother stubbornly forbade us from running through freshly fallen snow in our front yard. We could run around the back yard or in the neighbors’ yards to our hearts’ content, but our front yard was not to be disturbed. There was something about the appearance nature’s immaculate whitewash in front of our house that appealed to her. I knew it was some sort of sacred space she needed, but her unwillingness to let us weave patterns with our boots and leave our personal marks vexed me. Snow is meant to become snowmen and snow forts and snow angels. Eventually, these flawless white yards became folklore as I grew older and stopped playing in snow because boots and coats were uncool. It became a vague memory that I decided I fabricated or embellished to tell a better story. It wasn’t until a few years ago that my sisters confirmed my truth. Our childhood had a boundary, and the perfectly snowy front yard was it.
As I headed out with the dog today for a New Year’s Day walk, I stopped to appreciate the snow in our yard. It wasn’t the yard my mom cherished. The boys had been out there, and it was cacophony of uproarious footprints, not an untouched spot in sight. I thought about my mom and her need for that clean yard. I can relate to her sense of beauty and the pleasure she must have derived from the serenity of tidy snow. Motherhood is, after all, a sloppy endeavor, and the front yard was something she could control. It was the part of our home life that could be unblemished. Our flawless front yard granted her a facade of order and some semblance of peace. But, at the end of the day, virgin snow is about as realistic as a clean house. No matter what you do, it never lasts for long. It’s the perfect family photo that fails to relay the chaos behind the moments just prior to its capture. Reality is messy. Life, like a snowy yard, is meant to be experienced. Trying to keep it neat is a waste of time.
As an adult, I see each new year as my childhood’s unblemished front yard. After years of avoiding messes, I understand the privilege inherent in making my mark. Decorum is optional. If 2015 is anything like 2014, I will leave circles where I chased my tail and lines where I dragged my feet. There will be angels where I stopped for fun, some snow critters where I was creative, and forts where I dug in and fortified myself for the long haul. I will leave this year as gloriously pockmarked and lived in as I left last year. Today, though, on a spotless 1/1, I’m gazing over that quiet, blank slate and trying to decide where to head first. Last year’s funk is gone. Time to snap out of it.