Birthday Month


Rita has long declared that her birthday is the entire month of April. I believe she originally came to this thinking many years ago, to allow her mother more time to get a birthday card sent to her for a timely arrival on her actual birthday. My gift from Rita, for the May 8th birthday this year, was to arrive home from a night in Spokane to find my kitchen window box filled with flowers for the summer days to come. Don said, “I think this is the nicest thing anyone has ever done,” and I reminded him that, “no, she did this for me in 2005 when I arrived home from cancer treatment in Denver, to recover in the remains of summer.” Rita knows how to do birthdays.

It was a grand birthday celebration in Spokane, with an afternoon beer and lunch at a new downtown brewery, sitting by open garage doors on a sunny spring afternoon, people-watching safely distanced customers. Dinner, at our very favorite fine dining bistro, also felt safe in a newly constructed booth with our waiter masked. I never choked on my food–which had been a big concern of mine, even though I was discharged from swallowing therapy–and I had two glasses of champagne, and a fabulous coconut cake. After over a year, it felt like our Covid PTSD stayed in the shadows. This year’s birthday was not guaranteed, after my stroke in March, and the beautiful cards, calls, and texts from family and friends could not have been more loving, and I think I cried with each of them.

May is a huge birthday month in our circle. Don’s and Rich’s are May 11th, then two grandsons celebrate later in the week, and John finishes off the month with his. As the first to come along, and as the elder in the family, I always get the best and brightest celebration. Don spent his special day by driving into town at 6:00 a.m. to attend to his volunteer bookkeeping job, then coming back home to pick me up for a trip back into town for a visit to the orthopedic surgeon. While I spent two hours in the clinic getting a steroid injection into my troublesome right hip, he slept in the car, gathering his energy for a day of various chores near and far from the house. Everybody has to find celebration in their own way, and it is definitely tricky as we age. “At least it’s not the alternative” has ceased to be humorous for a long time now.

I had hoped to bake a cake for Don, but with the pain in my right hip, the best I could do was to make his favorite peanut butter cookies, so I could sit down and ice it during the 14 minutes each cookie sheet was in the oven. I’d missed my David Whyte webinar, with our trip to Spokane, so I tuned into the recording while I iced my hip. His series began back in May 2020 with the title of Vulnerability and Courage, and I’ve participated every month since then, always moved deeply by him reading his poems, which I never truly understand, but it doesn’t matter that I do. As he has said, poetry is not about some thing–it is the thing itself.

This May’s series is entitled Self Compassion. He tells the story of hiking in the Himalayas, alone, as a young man, and being paralyzed by fear to cross a rickety wooden bridge across a deep ravine at 11,000 feet, and how an old woman with a basket of Yak dung on her back, gives him a namaste greeting, then confidently crosses over to the other side. He followed her to safety, and then she seemed to vanish, just disappeared altogether from the trail. Soon, he came to the oldest monastery on the Annapurna Circuit, in the little village of Braga, and upon entering, was terrified by the ancient wooden Buddha statue guarding the door, threatening and beckoning the traveler to enter. He finished the webinar by reading a poem he wrote after this experience at Braga. I thought it was a lovely way to think about birthdays and getting old, and the self-compassion we need at this time in life.

The Faces at Braga, by David Whyte

In monastery darkness
by the light of one flashlight,
the old shrine room waits in silence.

While beside the door
we see the terrible figure,
fierce eyes demanding, “Will you step through?”

And the old monk leads us,
bent back nudging blackness
prayer beads in the hand that beckons.

We light the butter lamps
and bow, eyes blinking in the
pungent smoke, look up without a word,

see faces in meditation,
a hundred faces carved above,
eye lines wrinkled in the handheld light.

Such love in solid wood—
taken from the hillsides and carved in silence,
they have the vibrant stillness of those who made them.

Engulfed by the past
they have been neglected, but through
smoke and darkness they are like the flowers

we have seen growing
through the dust of eroded slopes,
their slowly opening faces turned toward the mountain.

Carved in devotion
their eyes have softened through age
and their mouths curve through delight of the carver’s hand.

If only our own faces
would allow the invisible carver’s hand
to bring the deep grain of love to the surface.

If only we knew
as the carver knew, how the flaws
in the wood led his searching chisel to the very core,

we would smile too
and not need faces immobilized
by fear and the weight of things undone.

When we fight with our failing
we ignore the entrance to the shrine itself
and wrestle with the guardian, fierce figure on the side of good.

And as we fight
our eyes are hooded with grief
and our mouths are dry with pain.

If only we could give ourselves
to the blows of the carver’s hands,
the lines in our faces would be the trace lines of rivers

feeding the sea
where voices meet, praising the features
of the mountain and the cloud and the sky.

Our faces would fall away
until we, growing younger toward death
everyday, would gather all our flaws in celebration

to merge with them perfectly,
impossibly, wedded to our essence,
full of silence from the carver’s hands.


May 2021


Every day, this is more green in the woods. The Paper Birch at water’s edge, which we sit under for shade in the summer, is leafing out every single day in the warmth and sunshine. The rivers and streams will soon be flowing with snow melt and the lake level will begin its annual rise. Don can hear the frogs on Saxton’s pond when he goes up to feed the kitty in the garage at dark, and the loon is making its haunting call on the lake in the early dawn. The Canada goose couple swam by the other day with three new little babies between them. Spring moves along no matter what is happening to us human beings.

I’m moving along in my recovery as well. I finally had an appointment with the vascular neurologist, who I’ve anxiously waited to see now for the past six weeks. I wanted him to read my palm and tell me my fortune. It was, overall, very promising, as he felt that I could see really significant improvement by early July. Just in time for the start of summer here in the north country. And, the speech pathologist told me Friday afternoon that she was ready to discharge me one week early, as I am coming along so nicely and can–very carefully–eat most foods again without choking.

Realizing I could now eat Friday night pizza, I went through the drive-up after my therapy appointment and bought us the usual. As I was driving home, I felt a bit unmoored to think I wouldn’t see the therapist again. Three times a week, for six weeks, I’ve sat in front of her for 45 minutes, as she watched me through a face shield, her mouth and nose covered in a mask, while I made 150 swallows of food I was directed to bring from home. I can only imagine what I looked like to her–eight electrical stimulation leads taped to my neck and an ace bandage wrapped around my head and neck to hold them in place. She used a counter to record the swallows, and in-between times, we talked about my stroke symptoms, and her daughter’s track meets, my grandchildren, how overworked she is, and we wrote recipes down for each other. Then, poof, she’s out of my life. She works four ten-hour days, seeing different patients every 45-60 minutes, and I am sure we all just whizz quickly through her busy work day. But, it feels like a relationship to me, which has abruptly ended. This is the person, after all, who taught me “rescue breathing”. I am reminded of those two weeks of lonely nights in the hospital, when a nurse would come into my room for vitals and to administer medications. It was rare I would have the same RN more than two nights in a row, but about every third night, Adam would be the nurse who showed up. Maybe he was one of the many traveling nurses, as he didn’t appear to have a relationship with the various CNAs who accompanied him into my room, like the other nurses did. He was always very quiet. But, every time he left my room, he looked at me so kindly and asked me if there was anything he could do for me, and he squeezed my foot. And, he was the only nurse who remembered to turn off my lights and shut the door. I would have liked to have said goodbye to him.

Well, we’ve moved on in this troubled world, making it to May 2021, and many things are truly better. This summer has loomed so promising in our imaginations with the accelerated rate of vaccinations. I hope it is what we’ve hoped it will be. In our forecast, for this merry month of May, rain is predicted at the end of the upcoming week. Whether we get a soft rain or a soaking rain, it will be most welcome, to prepare the grass, the trees, and the flowers, for those longed-for summer days to come.

There Will Come Soft Rains, by Sara Teasdale

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

April is winding down


At the end of this week, we will be done with the “cruel month” of April, and starting the Merry Month of May. The weather has unleashed winter’s remnants across the Rockies this month, leaving snow on my friends and family in Colorado, and thrashing loved ones on the eastern side of our state. Rooftops down here at the lake were covered in snow Friday morning, and cold rain showers pounded the roof overnight. When the low clouds lift off the water, I’m sure we’ll see the snow line at 5,000 foot. And, yet, this photo reflects many of the afternoons we’ve had this month. Most days, even with grapple or snow dusting the lawn, hours of bright spring sunshine have glowed through our French doors in the living room. Don has cleaned the windows twice this month on the lake side of the house, and the wicker furniture is now out on the porch. We haven’t sat out there yet, but it’s waiting for us, and Chatpeau is enjoying her naps on the wool blanket covering the love seat cushions.

Of all the lessons to be gleaned out of Springtime in the Rockies, patience and hope are certainly at the top. “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson.) My stroke recovery is in synch with the pace of nature in springtime. When I put my feet on the floor early this morning–like many mornings, I think for a nanosecond that it will feel like solid ground, and this storm in my life is over. I looked out the window to the blue light and heard the rain, and was reminded that nature’s pace, is nature’s pace, not mine. It helps somehow. And those branches, dripping with rain drops out my window, are ‘fiercely wanting, just a little more of life’– just like I am. Our skies are predicted to be clear in two days, just in time for the full supermoon, a kind farewell from April.

From Fourth Sign of the Zodiac by Mary Oliver

Late yesterday afternoon, in the heat,
all the fragile blue flowers in bloom
in the shrubs in the yard next door had
tumbled from the shrubs and lay
wrinkled and fading in the grass. But
this morning the shrubs were full of
the blue flowers again. There wasn’t
a single one on the grass. How, I
wondered, did they roll back up to
the branches, that fiercely wanting,
as we all do, just a little more of

One month later


It was one month ago today that we went to the hospital and learned that I was having a stroke. It feels like a lifetime ago. The last of the three girls left this morning, and we are alone to manage things ourselves. When Sarah arrived, just as I came home from the hospital, there were sunny and cheerful afternoons and we sat together on the bench by the water, and I was so grateful to be home, so optimistic about the summer days just around the corner. Even Easter was a pleasant day. But, yesterday, Joy and I cut short our walk when the grapple snow and hail pelted us in the face in a fierce and mean wind. The NOAA weather forecast this morning talked about how the temperatures will be 15-20 degrees below normal at the start of the week, with persistent winds.

There is no surprise in this fickle spring weather, and it matches up quite appropriately with my grind of therapy appointments and irritation at the pace of healing and recovery. And, after the pandemic, this slow “return to normal” fits right in with the tedious, frustrating time we are all in, still battered by a ‘cold wind’. Even with vaccines, we are warned about emerging out of our dark winter, to restrict non-essential travel, and not to gather indoors without masks. In our captive homes, which we are anxious to escape from, collective grief hides in the corners. Wasn’t it in The Waste Land where T.S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruellest month.”

And, yet, late this afternoon, Don and I went for a walk, ahead of the squalls we could see coming across the lake, and I came upon my first daffodil of the season. It was such a small thing, but it felt like a ”profound change” and just what I needed on this day, one month later.

Spring and All, by William Carlos Williams

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the

northeast—a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines—

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches—

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind—

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf

One by one objects are defined—
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance—Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken

Here Comes April


I have been home from the hospital a week now, and we’ve settled into a kind of rhythm. It’s taken all three of us–me, Don and Sarah–to master the medication regimen. After an initial miscalculation of one of the drugs in the first days, and the scary rise in blood pressure, all three of us get involved in my twice daily ingestion of pills, some cut in half, and spread out on the green cutting board, as we double check the bottles for directions and the sheet of paper given to us by the doctor. I choose a delicious flavor of pudding to get them down my still dysfunctional throat. I may be the only person to have gained weight on a pureed diet. Between the milkshakes and Cream of Wheat with a big dollop of butter and heap of sugar in the middle, I am getting plenty of calories.

Now that I’m home, and starting to put the pieces together of what has happened to me since March 11th, I sometimes worry about this new journey I am on and what will become of me, as I lie awake in the bewitching hours of the night. Other than two times in which I dreamed I was falling, there have been no dreams in my nighttime head, and I am so used to wonderful adventures up there. But, the bedroom has been filled with luminous moonlight this past week, and when I close my eyes, instead of stories in my brain, there’s a slow-moving video of beautiful scenes which flow by in a clockwise direction. Last night, there was a winter forest with meadows glittering in the moonshine. Sometimes I’ve opened my eyes in the morning and thought for a moment that maybe this was all a bad dream. Even so, I can tell throughout the day that I am incrementally improving.

It’s been a thoroughly predictable end to the month of March with sunshine and snowflakes, calm water and raging winds. Part of our rhythm in this week has been late afternoons in the living room with streaming sunshine through the glass doors. I’m usually lying on the sofa, and Sarah sits in the big chair facing the water, with Chatpeau lying at her feet on the ottoman. We talk about how we can maybe put the kitty in her backpack when she flies home to California on Friday. As bedtime approaches during the lovely l’heure bleue , and the three of us sit together by the waning fire, the conversation is a soothing hum as my eyes begin to close.

Tomorrow we move into April. I used to grumble about April as a frustrating transition month between winter and summertime, full of wind and showers and too much cold. April requires patience and faith, reminding us that that there is, indeed, a ‘necessary and cyclical giving away,’ and belief that we will arrive in an unfolding new life.

“We are constantly astonished to find, that fully one half of any life and any conversation is mediated through disappearance and loss, which means that most human beings, not quite believing that this could be true, are at war with reality at least half of our time on this earth. Making peace with this necessary and cyclical giving away in our moveable, transient, hardly touchable world, is not only to make peace with our very selves, but to further our journey along the pilgrim journey of generosity, of giving the gift which to begin with, is hidden even from ourselves. Our vitality is linked to our vulnerability, to our willingness to be undone as much as to do, to let go as much as to take on, to allow ourselves to be found as much as to seek, to find our arrivals in having made great departures, even against our seemingly conscious will.” David Whyte

Spring Equinox 2021


“You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.” –Pablo Neruda

I write this from my hospital bed in Kalispell. Having suffered a stroke, I am into the second week here, with hopes I’ll be discharged to outpatient care this upcoming Friday. Rita has kept me in flowers as I make my way through the days. On the fifth day, I wrote in my journal that her daffodils showed off their golden ruffles, and Don told me that he heard a robin’s song down at the lake. He keeps me company by day, and at night, when I pull up the white cotton blankets from the foot of my skinny hospital bed, it feels like I’m covering myself with the love, prayers and best wishes of so many people who love and care about me, and about Don. It truly comforts me to snuggle in under all that warmth as I drift off at the end of a long day, hoping for a good tomorrow.

And, here it is, spring, once again. Just like it was promised to us. It always holds the promise of new beginnings and new growth, a time of transformation. I would like to be like the bear, sharpening my claws against the silence of the trees, knowing always how to love this world.

Spring, by Mary Oliver

a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring 

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her~
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love

In like a lamb…


 The Tibetan term bardo, or “intermediate state,” is not just a reference to the afterlife. It also refers more generally to these moments when gaps appear, interrupting the continuity that we otherwise project onto our lives. In American culture, we sometimes refer to this as having the rug pulled out from under us, or feeling ungrounded. These interruptions in our normal sense of certainty are what is being referred to by the term bardo. But to be precise, bardo refers to that state in which we have lost our old reality and it is no longer available to us. Lion’s Roar–Buddhist Wisdom for our Time.

March came in like a lamb last week. Every morning was peaceful and serene, and several of my cocktail hours were down by the water. Granted, I was wearing a parka and hat, and had to walk over frozen ground and patches of snow to get there, but the sun is now high enough off the horizon to give all the heat required to sit there for that hour. It’s been so quiet. Even the pair of Canada Geese has paddled by the shoreline in silence. There are two pairs of geese now sitting on the white ice of Johnson’s Pond, waiting to make their nests. Soon, we’ll hear the loons’ calls out on the water. And, this morning, there were two robins on my walk.

The weather forecasters claim there will be a cool down to more normal temperatures in the week ahead, but spring is creeping in, step by baby step. Much like life in the time of Covid, we’re in a holding pattern, as we peek out the door to see if its safe. “We have lost our old reality and it is no longer available to us”, in this time of bardo. We’re not sure what we can yet do, and in this uncertain future, people make different decisions on the right course of action. I have friends who left town, so they don’t have to answer the phone calls from people asking, “how did you jump the vaccine line?” The local bars and restaurants are now packed with cars on Friday nights. With our state mask mandate rescinded, even the UPS store took down their masks required sign, and I could see through the glass that employees were maskless. At the local post office, where they observe the federal mask mandate, the clerk thanked me for coming in to mail my packages, and thanked me for keeping her employed.

I have low expectations for the month of March. There is never any certainty about what the weather might be like from day to day, and it’s always a good idea to just be patient, ride it out, and look forward to April showers and daffodils. I’m back to reading Kenneth Grahame’s book, The Wind in the Willows. There is something so comforting in reading about the passing of seasons, the flow of the river in spring, and the dangers of winter in the Wild Wood, and how Rat and Mole show such kindness to all their fellow creatures. They are characters who know how to find home, whatever travails they encounter in their adventures. As Mole tells Badger:

“Once well underground, you know exactly where you are. Nothing can happen to you, and nothing can get at you. You’re entirely your own master, and you don’t have to consult anybody or mind what they say. Things go on all the same overhead, and you let ’em, and don’t bother about ’em. When you want to, up you go, and there the things are, waiting for you.”

It’s Almost March


“Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.” 
― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

March begins tomorrow. Month by month, we’ve gone through a full year with Covid-19. When I look back at my photos from over this past year, I’m overcome with sadness about how hard it’s been, how this collective grief has been so exhausting. Although thousands are getting vaccinated each day, and Covid numbers overall appear to be rapidly improving, I swear I’ve shed as many tears this past week as I did back in the beginning. In just five weeks, Don and I will have had both shots, and I guess we’ll be safe to move out of isolation, without fearing Covid will kill us. We start talking about what we might do, but I just freeze in my tracks. Somebody wrote the other day that emerging out of this is likely to feel like when you’ve come out of a movie theatre mid-day, and are totally blinded by the harsh sunlight. It’s going to take some time.

The weather this last week of February has been very March-like, though on this morning’s walk, there was an especially hard and bitter wind, with snow swirling across the road. Each day, snow showers and sun showers have alternated with one another and the high temperature hovered around 35 degrees. A large flock of coots are hanging out on the water, close to the shoreline. As the waves roll in, they move up and down with the swells, and bunch tightly together when an eagle is in the neighborhood. They remind me of the videos I’ve watched of those amazing starling murmurations. In perfect harmony, the compacted flock rapidly moves across the water, to the right, to the left, back to the right, as the Bald Eagle swoops low over them, his talons nearly skimming the water. I’m often at the window, hoping that none of the dark birds at the edges gets scooped up into the sky. Don reminds me that eagles have to eat, too, but when there are four at once, swooping through our trees to hover over the water, their broad wings flat like a board, flanking the flock on all sides, I go out on the porch and make my presence known.

Snow still covers the ground, but we’ve heard the male blackbirds in the past few days, and the robins can’t be far behind. The sky often has big patches of that unique cerulean blue of springtime, and enormous towering white clouds, with intermittent squalls of snow which sweep across the lake. Watching out the window in bright sunlight yesterday afternoon, big snow flakes swirled around, and it looked like summer’s shedding of the cottonwood trees. Our weather forecast is calling for warming temperatures in the upcoming week, with 50 degrees come Friday. That’s hard to believe, but, I would guess the block of ice covering our road will melt. The spring, flowing down from the mountains east of us, is already revealing dirt at the edges. Bit by tiny bit, a new season is moving in, and this hard winter will soon be behind us. I’m looking forward to dusting myself off, taking a breath of new clear air, and moving on to the brighter days which are waiting for us.

Everything is Waiting for you, by David Whyte

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.



‘”Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.’ – Chapter V: Riddles In The Dark. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

This week has plodded along, as slow-moving as trudging through deep snow. Everyday, I’ve shoveled our stone steps as snow bands leave behind an inch or a foot. Then the sun comes out for awhile, then the snow again. Our road has been plowed twice, and the UPS driver sends me texts that he’s can’t navigate its icy descent, so he’s left the latest book I’ve ordered in a neighbor’s carport up at the highway. I think I only took the car out one time to pick-up an order of groceries in town. I’ve grown weary of spending time online in search of a left-over Covid vaccine for Don; he’ll just have to wait his turn in a long cue for the next tier to become available. Our septic pump alarm went off early in the week, sending fears of a back-up like we had last Fall. It’s been easier to revert to frontier cabin living this time around, as I watch what the poor people in Texas have been living through. There’s been a Covid death in the family of one of my friends this week, and the birth of a baby girl in another friend’s family. Life moves on.

“I’m safe on Mars. Perseverance will get you anywhere.” #CountdownToMars.

Whilst we’ve had our dramas and traumas down here on Earth, a few days ago, the NASA rover, Perseverance, traveled 293 million miles over 203 days to land exactly where she was supposed to, and then sent out a tweet with photos of her “forever home”. She’s brought along a helicopter, Ingenuity, in the search for rocks to help us understand the origins of our beautiful blue and troubled planet. In Native News Online, I read an interview with the mechanical engineer, Aaron Yazzie, a Native American (Navajo, Dine’ tribe), who is a member on the NASA team, and thought how in the current times we live in, his perspective is vital.

“…For Yazzie, that has meant pursuing origin stories ingrained in him from childhood. Navajo children are told stories of how land forms and how constellations in the sky came to be in order to better understand their identity and their connection to the land, he said.

In another week or so, we will leave February behind, as we trot forward into the month of March–with our little swords.

‘You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!’ – Gandalf, Chapter XIX: The Last Stage



Cold Morning, by Eamon Brennan

Through an accidental crack in the curtain 
I can see the eight o’clock light change from 
charcoal to a faint gassy blue, inventing things 

in the morning that has a thick skin of ice on it 
as the water tank has, so nothing flows, all is bone, 
telling its tale of how hard the night had to be 

for any heart caught out in it, just flesh and blood 
no match for the mindless chill that’s settled in, 
a great stone bird, its wings stretched stiff 

from the tip of Letter Hill to the cobbled bay, its gaze 
glacial, its hook-and-scrabble claws fast clamped 
on every window, its petrifying breath a cage

In which all the warmth we were is shivering. 

It’s been brutal this past week. Lake fog shrouds the house all morning long. Chunks of ice clack against each other at water’s edge, and an occasional ice floe drifts by from the river channel, as hungry Bald Eagles fly in and out of the fog. As with most things in life, you have to keep telling yourself, “At least it’s not as bad as, say, White Sulpher Springs, MT at -44 degrees, or -33 degrees in Great Falls, or our poor Billings family. Our sanity has been salvaged on most of these extreme days by the blazing sunshine late in the afternoon, and by gorgeous sharp and crisp sunsets as the mercury plummets in the descending night. Any evening now, the new fingernail moon will greet us in the west, just as the sun leaves the sky.

On one cold and still afternoon, I walked out to the river which was mostly covered in ice, and watched swans and a crowd of geese loudly chatter as they bobbed together in blue slivers of open water. I imagined them sharing gossip about how March is just around the corner, and, don’t you feel the new warmth of the sun. In our house, there is a dramatic change in the light, from Winter’s darkest of days. By my final cup of coffee, the garage up the hill is outlined in early morning blue as I look out the pantry window. And, late afternoon sunshine beams into the living room, often with a blinding glare, that makes me move from chair to chair as I read the big fat book I bought to keep me going. Yesterday, I looked back again in my iPhotos library, to reassure myself that in every first weeks of March, there’s a shot of me sitting in bright sunshine on the porch off our bedroom, in a parka, but with sunglasses and sun hat, cold frosty beer in my hand at Happy Hour.

On Valentine’s Day morning, our forecasted high temperature is 14 degrees. A coincidence, perhaps, but I’m reading it as sign that better days–of all kinds– are not far off the horizon.