In below zero temps, I stop by the library on my way home from work to pick up an interlibrary loan book. My friend in her mask runs down from her balcony office, and we huddle against the library’s 100-year-old radiator.
She tells me about the death of a person in town, from Covid. My friend is wearing a sweater from yarn she spun and dyed, from goldenrod blossoms she gathered. The sweetness of early fall is a long, long way from us. I’d been thinking that someday these days will be but a remembrance to us, and here I’m hearing word of family who will never forget these bitter January days.
I finish the afternoon chores I’ve set out to do — buy cheese at the co-op, get the mail at the post office, stop by the superintendent’s office to sign the high school budget warning we voted on last night. At home, I feed the wood stove and the cats and set pizza dough to rise.
Then I do my final outside chore — I gather bits of bark and kindling from the barn floor and a few dry sticks into a cardboard box. In the early, dark morning, I’m up first, and this kindling box is my easy way to begin the day. I think of it as a little gift to myself.
The cold is fierce around me. I stand in the barn, holding that box in my leather gloves, thinking of nothing at all. Just standing there.