Changing Worlds

The cold, my old familiar friend, sweeps back.

Carrying out a bucket of hot ashes from the woodstove in the early morning, I stand for a moment in the gusting wind. Is snow falling or merely blowing?

Inside, the cats pace, hungry, then hunker before the stove, waiting for warmth.

Midwinter, our days unfold in an unusual patience, a kind of dreamy standstill, fluctuating between work and home for my older daughter and myself, and the new version of school for my youngest.

In Vermont, the Agency of Ed aims to fully reopen schools by the end of April. My high schooler asks me, while we make spicy egg rolls, what that means. Among all the things she doesn’t like about this mixed-up world, she’s come to relish the kind of collegesque schedule she’s managed at the high school, coming and going at her own will.

At fifteen, she’s composed and level-headed, determined to get done what’s necessary.

I tell her what I believe — that the world will not revert to the way it was, that our future is already unfolding around us, in ways we don’t yet understand.

I can’t tell her what I’m thinking — seize the reins you’re already holding and steer your own fate — because I know she doesn’t want my advice. Maybe she doesn’t even need my advice.

Instead, I scrape out the last of the cabbage from the pan and say, “Do what you need to do. This is your life.”

Outside, this morning, the wind chimes bang in the wind.

In the bleak Winter
When the World is one color
Is the Sound of Wind

— Bashō

Hardwick, Vermont, January