December Snow

Another day of heavy clouds broken by sun and rain—Seattle winter. Sometimes I think it’ll never snow again.  In California the closest we got to snow were fires, the Santa Anna winds blowing ash into gutters like snowdrift.  Here I can see the mountains and their white peaks but it feels so distant. One year I bought perfume that smelled of a snow storm when you open a warm front door—the cold crashing into your body, the edge of darkness pushed back with spilling light.  I wore it at my pulse points and went to a friend’s fundraiser hoping to find a rugged mountain man to keep my evenings warm and spent the night dancing with an ex when I should have run. I still remember the surprise in his eyes when he touched my skin, sweaty from dancing, and a different evening flashed into sight. So the snow lured him back, in a way, for a time.

Christmas time is a strong recipe for nostalgia, especially after spending 4 years in college in Bethlehem, a city that had to put out a press release announcing the generic postmark after being overwhelmed by out-of-towners depositing endless sacks of mail. White lights twinkle and, for most of December, you can hear the college choir practicing or performing for Vespers at the Moravian Church. Is it because fresh snowfall erases so much about a city? Is it because of the hush that falls, the filtered light, the way a window steams up as if to push away night fall?

The first major storm in Bethlehem I was caught at work on the wrong campus, a mile from my room with buses that, even with chains, had stopped running. It was probably a Friday night, that was the night that I closed the library with my boyfriend, and the place was empty.  We walked the stacks, gathering books from the tables, watching the snow out of the large windows.  Campus police came to lock and, because they saw us every Friday and often closed the coffee house I ran, knew we’d be stranded. They gave us a ride down the hill—slowly navigating the empty streets, and dropped us off at my building.  I ran upstairs to drop my things off while my boyfriend smoked a cigarette on the porch and when I came back down there were a few friends gathered.  Quiet energy was building—the kind that’s unique to snow storms and college students—the world closing into a bubble around young bodies just beginning to stretch into adulthood.

One of the houses we passed on Church Street. Photo credit: Kathleen Connally

We walked down the street a few blocks to the town library where we’d spent our first few hours together, reading romance novels out loud to each other during the monthly basement book sale, trying desperately not to laugh too loudly.  The landscaped shrubs had nets of white lights over them, peeking through the snow, and the courtyard was a blank field of white.  Snow haloed around the orange street lights and our footprints trailed blue shadows behind us. We scooped up snow into our gloved hands and drank deeply—still children in that way, wanting the cold on our tongues and reveling in the way it disappeared down our throats. My boyfriend cleared a bench off and I sat beside him, leaning into each other as our friends tipped back into the blank field, making snow angels.  When he kissed me our warm breath mixed with ice and snow dusted our shoulders.

My memory ends in that kiss and not what happened next. I’m sure we stood eventually, I’m sure we walked back to a warmed room and draped our cold things over chairs to dry.  Life kept moving forward, as it does when snow storms melt away.

Snow storms now mean something entirely different—friends disappear into the mountains chasing fresh powder, new tracks, higher elevation.  There are crevasses to be navigated, avalanches to be wary of, beer at lodges with loosened ski boots and thermoses of warm wine at the fire lookouts. The snow here is not my snow yet—it’s bigger, more dangerous, unfamiliar.  But look- I have skis leaning against my wall, borrowed boots, goggles that fog; I will learn.

(Image credit from this site.)

Outside the library, a different snow storm. Photo Credit : Kathleen Connally

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Constellations

Δ Δ Δ | telescopic | original photo from @renan_ozturk

@triglyyy: Δ Δ Δ | telescopic | original photo from @renan_ozturk

I hope it’s okay to repost this photo– it’s from one of the users I follow on instagram, and I’ve tried to give proper citation and links back (and please– if someone knows @triglyyy or you stumble on this yourself and you’d like me to take this down, just let me know).

I have always had a distant love affair with stars– I think this is just part of the human condition.  At one point I tried to teach myself the stories of stars, but the only story and constellation combination I know is the story of Perseus saving Andromeda.  Some day I hope to know more, and I suspect that if I ever have children, the star-stories will be ones that I’ll selfishly try to tell so I can learn them as well. 

This summer I spent a lot of evenings beneath the stars, and I want to write about those evenings and how they stretched into morning, but I’m finding it difficult.  There was the night, in Squamish, that we stripped down and balanced out on logs to skinny dip in the warm lake under the Perseids. The night we saw the northern lights streaking across the Vantage sky.  The night we walked into the desert shortly after sunset, covered in dark, the blanket of stars our only light. The night at Smith where the moon rose so quickly it felt alive and breathing, reaching for the zenith. I need to reclaim these evenings into my body and make them my own.  I think it’s finally time to finish the tattoo on my right arm– finally commit to the constellation that marked so much.  I no longer talk to the man that was beside me on that hike, who spent high noon on the top of Half Dome with me and who, when I paused in fear, talked me through it.  I wonder, sometimes, if he thinks about that summer at all and all of the plans we had.  I think he is happier now, without me.  We always survive. 

I don’t see stars often, here in the city.  Sometimes pinpricks make it through, but often they are just the bright gems of Orion’s belt, or the sharp points of Cassiopeia’s crown. In the summer I make it out often enough to be star-satiated, but winter keeps me close to the city.  This is one of the reasons I’ve finally decided to take up skiing– I need to be beneath a larger sky.  I am so thankful for K, who sends me photos of his trips, but it isn’t the same as being out there.  I dislike the cold and I’m honestly a little terrified of skiing, but it’s time to stop living through other people. 

Winter approaches quietly

I can mark Seattle snow events by holidays.  When I moved out here the first storm hit on solstice, and the solstice party we had planned ended up myself, my aunt and uncle, their two friends and my friend.  We had plenty of food, a cozy fireplace, an eventful trek through snow (complete with bus-delay and truck-rescue).  The next year was mild and uneventful.  This year, as we made our way towards Thanksgiving the snow began to fall again.  Monday I stayed at work longer than I should have, keeping my fingers crossed for the Seattle Arts and Lectures event that evening, but as it grew dark I started to get worried and I grabbed my stuff to head home.  What’s a twenty-minute commute in the snow?  Try three hours and a mile walk home.  I was cold, hungry and grouchy by the time I stamped my feet into our foyer, but there was my housemate, with a warm kitchen and a bottle of wine.  Since then I have no complaints.  The next morning as the snow took hold my office closed down and I bundled up and walked to the grocery store as the sun rose.  Colorful delicious breakfast, working from home, Thanksgiving, movies, yarn projects, art projects, reading books I’d put down a while ago, a concert that blew my mind…. and the snow’s already melted away. 

I won’t pretend everything is going the way I want it to right now, but there’s enough that keeps me falling in love that I don’t know how I could complain.  Seattle, you beautiful thing.  Keep shining that smile across the water at me.

It.

I’ve been told many of my entries here are sad.  I don’t think that’s true, I think it’s just the opposite- they are perhaps a bit too gushy about my love affair with Seattle. So, I love Seattle. That’s out-of-the-way for this post.

I now work just an easy walk from the downtown library, and I have to say I’m stacking up books I keep meaning to get to, but the active life of sun-outside, live-music, and in general social-occasions keep tempting me away.  The past few days have given me a chance to dive back into pages, and I’m glad for the return (though my body might be unhappy–getting too deep into a book on a very sunny day means I’m sunburnt in odd patches….)

One of the books I’m working my through is Inger Christensen’s It, translated by Susanna Nied.  Anne Carson wrote the introduction, and the best I can liken it to is strolling along a beach looking for sea glass.  Most of it, so far, is nice but sort of repetitive.  Phrases return and return, and I find myself skimming along for a while.  And then there’s a glittering smoothness, transparent bright green against the round pebbles and waves and I am brought sharply back to the page.  Can a projects intent be to be shoreline with small moments of gleaming treasure?  I think so.  If it were all at the same pitch, that pitch would lose its urgency and resonance.

Reading It I am struck not only by the repetition and the sharp glittering moments, but also by the odd lack of specificity.  The book is making me take more chances with my own work and I am allowing myself to leave more details out.  I’m working on a collection titled snowheart at the moment, and I don’t know that it’ll ever make it into anyone’s hands but my own.  And I’m ok with that, it is just something I have to put together, to see how the pages butt up against each other.  I need to submit work out again, I need to look into fellowships, but first I need to pause and re-evaluate what exactly I have and where I am going with it.  I am learning to slow down.

I find I keep writing love poems these days, which is to say, I think I’ve always written love poems.  The difference here is that I’m not feeling indebted to adhere to the truth of a love affair.  The longing was part of it//because the truth was never part of it//because the truth is never part of it

I don’t know how much truth there is to love, to longing.  I find I long for the story of longing, for the unobtainable love, more than the thing directly in front of me. So snowheart is dealing with that, or attempting to.  It’s a bit narcissistic, a bit confessionalist, and a whole lot of lying.  But if I find it does get at a larger truth, then maybe it will be shopped around.  For now, I’m retreating into my own journals and not worried about it.

Fairy Tales and Buses

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The most beautiful woman sits across from me on the bus. Arched eyebrows, skin the color of dark caramel.  Cream scarf caught around her neck and jacket with a ruffled collar that I would, in no way, be able to wear.  I expect her to get off at the first stop, or the second, but as I leave she remains seated, she moves along the arteries of the city and disappears. 

Downtown, the tops of the buildings are caught in mist.  Grey day in Seattle, no surprises there.  It seems a day for magic, for things to happen.  I am not the beautiful girl on the bus, but she exists and I know nothing about her, I will never see her again.  She is perfect in my unknowing.

 

The cherry blossoms are giving way to leaves, and white petals shower off of trees I cannot name.  Dogwood? Myrtle? Last night a man told me he remembered kissing my neck, the salty taste of my skin.  He could have waxed poetic; told me about oceans and brine and the way our bodies are like water, continually renewing.  He didn’t.  I remember the collision of our bodies differently–the night thin above our bodies, the way I wanted to claw out of everything.  Depression is a funny thing, so thick and present when caught in a backwards glance.

 

I have been told I am like the wind, moving constantly. A creature of air and current. I remember my mythology, my fairy tales.  There are so many winds, drawn with puffed cheeks and billowing beards.  The wicked and cold North winds, the warm and kind South winds.  Wind that is caught carefully in a sack and released at the wrong time, wind that carries forlorn brides to distant lands, repentant and clutching tallow stained shirts.  East of the sun, west of the moon.  To the ends of the earth.

 

Outside the flags barely move, they shift limply on their poles, they hang listlessly.  The glass walls let in fogged light only slightly paler than the grey carpet, than the off-white metal girders.  My body is not wind, is not water, is not anything but sitting here, solidly in a corner.  I want to know where the woman was going, I half expect her to walk past me here, clutching a museum map, her reflection multiplied across the metal skin of planes.  She has vanished into the city, beyond the city.  She is drinking coffee, her lips marking the edge of the paper cup.  She is reading a book, turning each page slowly.

 

I remember my fairytales.  A girl wanders into the woods following the next flower.  Clutching her treasures to her breast she is lost and confused and at the periphery wolf-teeth glint.  Skin the color of fresh snow, lips the color of blood.  The horse head that speaks to the goose-girl, a hidden princess.  In fairytales, there are central characters and the background fades into a tangle of brambles, into the vast ocean between the house of the sun and the house of the moon.  Would I be Snow White, that princess Aurora, or would I be a maid simply cleaning the flagstones as sleep descends in its spell-filled cloud?

 

[I have begun to write at work. My real job at my paying job. The language is a bit stilted, the threads meandering, but at least I am keeping my mind active.  I don’t know what use most of it has, so I suspect it will end up here.]