This morning I heard steps across my porch. My neighbor and friend Amy was at the door. “We’re hoping you and David want to ski with Paul and me?” It was like a childhood friend knocking at my door 50 years ago to ask, “Can you come out and play?” Earlier this week, another friend emailed to say her husband “can go out and play for a couple of hours on Sunday. Are you guys up for some snowshoeing?”
Three weeks ago it suddenly became winter in NH — snow, frigid air, snow, snow, snow. The skiing and snowshoeing is the best it’s been in several years, and all our outdoor friends are taking advantage of it. Last weekend, when I got home from NY, there was a message on my answering machine from Alison. “The skiing’s great if you’re interested.” I didn’t get the message until late that evening, after skiing with David, but Alison called again on Sunday morning. “Anne and Peter are coming over at 11:00 to snowshoe, then Anne and I are skiing. Want to come?”
I called back. “Yes, David and I want to come over and play.” And play we did, snowshoeing the new trail through the Epsom Town Forest, then skiing up a snowmobile trail to the untraveled rise of Tarleton Road, making our own tracks to the height of the ridge. The snow was dry, light, deep and very cold.
Today is warmer. There’s been more snow. After skiing with Amy and Paul, David and I came home and had some lunch and headed back out to play. This time we skied the snowmobile trails from our house, then followed the ski tracks we made last weekend down an old road to a marsh, out across the open expanse. We crossed the brook that feeds the marsh and skied up along its bank, the snow keeping us high above the few spots with water still running between deep mounds. As we crossed the marsh, I thought of a weekend just about four years ago.
It was another frigid winter, but there was less snow. Adrienne had come home for the weekend, as she did almost every weekend that winter after Eric died, and we went for a walk in the woods. The brook had frozen solid and clear, a long flow of ice, into the frozen swamp. The poem I wrote that night ended up in the book I wrote that year, and was published the following winter. Here it is, and here I am, four years later, playing my way through the winter, bumping up against deep snow and silence.
I am squatting in the fireplace, hands out
to catch the heat off the first flame, the only
heat in the house, the furnace fan out,
the belt and pulleys jiggled off their mounts.
Last night a friend and I were comparing pathetic
and now I win. I am trying silence today,
lie on the floor, again, in the sun on the carpet
in the room where you died, heavy wind,
the shadow of plants below the great windows,
warm, how grateful you were for this room, open
and high. I don’t want to make sense, I am fed up
with misfortune. I walked the frozen brook
into the wind of the marsh, following the tracks
of a dog. I sat in the sun but it was too cold.