Stories From the Past and Present

At just a little over zero degrees — the sun shining beautifully — my daughter and I went ice skating at the town’s rink. Set behind the elementary school, in an out-of-the-way field where burdock grow in the summer, the rink is the vision of one woman, coupled with 2″x6″s and a plastic liner and a lot of help.

I slipped off my mittens to pour a cup of hot chocolate. My hands nearly froze.

Small town life is generally cozy. We see each other’s kids grow up. By and large, we look out for each other. But every now and then, the underside, the other, deeper side of small town life appears. That same day, two different people appeared in my life from a long-ago part of my life. One was a woman. She and I exchanged stories. The other was a man who stole from me and my daughters.

My daughter with her red cheeks and I were on our way home. A friend leaned close to me and asked who was the stranger. I whispered to her, and then we left.

Long ago, I crossed out of any Pollyanna view of New England village life and into the realm of Sherwood Anderson and Ray Carver. I’m nearly finished Ensouling Language — a book that unexpectedly arrived in my post office box. I’d never heard of the author, Stephen Harrod Buhner, although the book from its opening lines writes in my familiar world, particularly of Lorca’s duende, of traveling in the wilderness, of baptism with dark waters.

As a woman writer, particularly, I often find myself pushing back against this cultural insistence to “make nice” and pretty things up. We live in an enchanting world, but the world’s waters are often dark, too, populated by saints and by thieves.

My daughter and I took our skates home, hung them up, and ate dinner.

A thousand thanks and more for this book.

Love is nice… but writing is too hard for love alone. Love is crucial for many reasons but it is not enough to get through [writing] the book. And whether you call it hate, or rage, or anger, or irritation, it is all some form of the same thing. You must have this hate, this rage to be a writer for this is one of the hardest professions on the planet and without rage you will never survive it. You will always run out of steam about page 60.

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Photo by Molly S.

In the Gloaming

Even the kids remark on the darkness.

In our kitchen, the girls baking cookies after school turn on the overhead light. At my library, the little children play outside in the afternoon dark, rolling down the snowy hillside in their bulky clothes.

I turn on the outside light beside the door for the parents. It’s not yet 5 o’clock.

Around our house, a bitter wind swirls snowflakes with tiny teeth. On our red rug, the cats stretch, indolent. Through the vast space, on our heavenly blue-and-emerald body, we spin.

Already light is returning pairs of wings
lift softly off your eyelids one by one
each feathered edge clearer between you
and the pearl veil of day

You have nothing to do but live.

— From “Winter Solstice” by Anonymous

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Singing in the Dark

This time of year, the darkness knits around us. Waking early, I’m awake for hours working into the light. Very early evening, I returned with the children in the full dark, the stars overhead distantly radiant in the pitch firmament. The shortest day of the year is now so near, I can feel the arc of our universe nearly rounding the bend, gradually slingshotting us back toward light.

This is my one life. Say you know.
Say this means many things, say snowy owl,
say three feet of snow, say kestrel. My one
life is here at the table, next to me. Say you know,
say fine night for soup, glad to have you,
how was your drive….  Say here,
One Life, settle in with us. Here is the fire.
Say here is a warm stone. Say sing.

Say Sing, Kerrin McCadden

 

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