When I carried out the stove ashes this morning, the air was balmy, almost sweet, redolent with that peculiar scent of woodsmoke hanging low, with traces of mud and the wetness of tree bark. The ten-year-old girls played in the hoop house, climbing up the metal arches, while I restocked where the woodpile had fallen down into slushy puddles.
Later, the rain began to fall in earnest, and the little girls and I drank tea and talked about the river ice breaking up. We remembered snowshoeing on a pond last winter, and someone who had broken through the top crust, soaking his boot. He spread himself out on the ice, to even his weight.
In the cold of winter, we often skate on deep lakes with enormous pleasure. I reiterated how to skate with safety – how to love Vermont’s frozen waters with the bend of the sky overhead.
As we talked on and on this rainy, chatty day, I ended up telling my daughter and her friend about a visit I had made to Detroit when I was their age. My father bought food at a restaurant where money and food revolved through a bullet-proof revolving door. My siblings and I didn’t understand this at all; my father said, “We’re in Detroit, now, kids.”
Rule 1 if you break through the ice: don’t panic.
It is January, and there are crows
like black flowers on the snow.
While I watch they rise and float toward the frozen pond,
they have seen
Some streak of death on the dark ice.
They gather around it and consume everything, the strings
and the red music of that nameless body. Then they shout,
one hungry, blunt voice echoing another….
– Mary Oliver