Saturday, January 10, 2015

Saturday Musings, 10 January 2015

Good morning,

The wind rises, now low, now loud; and the dog turns her eyes towards me.  She can feel it.  She ran into the yard and then quickly back to the porch, barking and threatening the neighbors' Saturday sleep.  She has curled into a defiant, determined ball:  I will not go out again!  I smile at her.

I'm thinking of a long winter's evening in Winslow, Arkansas, a night spent huddled in a recliner near the wood stove, listening to the wind howling between the old mountains down the corridor of Highway 71.  I had piled my great-grandmother's quilt over my legs and added heavy split logs to the stove.  My clumsy hands had not  mastered the trick of stacking wood in the carrier so I brought them one at a time into the living room.  After eight or nine trips, I reached to turn the back-up baseboard heaters to high.  Outside, the unrelenting wind pounded on the shingles and slammed the mudroom screen door.

I wore three layers of clothing and an extra sweater tucked around the small bulge growing high in my belly.  Four months pregnant, cold, worried; I wondered if a February had ever passed so frigidly in the Boston Mountains.  The phone had rung at ten.  Friends from Fayetteville checking:  Yes, I'm fine.  The wife's voice called to the husband, Shouldn't you go get her? but I declined.  I had bought a house in the country before I knew that I would winter with child growing in me, but here I had staked my claim and here I intended to remain.

I could not sleep.

With a cup of tea on a table at hand, I stared into the flames through the glass door.  I saw no images there; I only saw warmth and possible destruction.  The fire controlled me.  Without it, I could die.  But it could kill me and I knew that.  Its flames could leap out into the room or send deadly smoke to curl around my face and smother me.  I watched it burn until I felt water trickle down my cheeks -- not tears so much as the sting of staring.  I shook my head and struggled from beneath the quilt, to go into the kitchen and make another cup of tea.

I heard a banging then, from the weird, half-finished deck at the back of the house.  I strained to peer through the darkness to see what critter might have taken shelter at the apex formed by the addition, also incomplete, which had drawn me to see potential in the dwelling when my friend Carl had offered to sell it to me.  I sensed a presence but could see nothing in the starless night.

I closed my eyes and pulled an image of the back lot into my mind.  Long, low and sloping, the yard ended at the far side of the flat-bottomed creek.  Dry now, in the height of spring it had sent a flood that reached the house.  But as summer claimed the waters, I could walk barefoot on the flagstone, southwards into the woods, north towards the neighbor's cleared acreage.  Something had come up to the house from the stand of trees flanking the creek, I felt sure.  A deer, perhaps; or something less benign.  I pulled the curtain further back and leaned against the glass sliding door, blinking, trying to sharpen my gaze.

And then a shape loomed, straight against the glass, dark, thick.  I staggered back into the room and dropped the cup which shattered and sent a shower of hot water towards my feet.  We stood still, the creature and I, caught in that moment, me in the chilly kitchen and it in the frigid air of its domain.  I could not see its eyes. I could not discern the contours of its body.  It could have been anything.

As I stood frozen, it lowered its body back to the planking and hovered on the deck.  I could not breathe.  I felt its indecision.  Then it rose, turned, and lumbered over the side.  I lost sight of it as it ambled away into the unbroken darkness.

I did not sleep at all that night.  In the morning, I pulled back the French doors and gazed across my yard, down to the dry creek and the bare trees.  I saw a flicker of white that I thought might be the tail of a deer.  On the deck, my wooden reading chair lay  splintered, crushed beneath the weight of whatever had sought shelter in the shadow of my home.

In an hour or so, a friend will arrive to work with me on some chores that need stronger hands than mine.  The little dog will be banished to the backyard and I will brew another pot of strong coffee.  In Hawaii, my autumn roommate Jessica starts her first Saturday as an Island girl.  Eight hours northeast of me in Evanston, Illinois, the child who grew within me during my strange Arkansas winter will make his own pot of coffee before setting out for his day's adventures.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.