A note, from deep within the “ideas” book that I carry. While the note is only two months old, it was a whole ‘nother season, a time when the outside doubled as a walk-in cooler, I lived alone, and the world was, contradictorily, both larger and smaller…
It is 6:30 in the morning, and I’ve awoken to find that four inches of snow have fallen since last night.
Some winters never end.
I pull on my boots for the 800th time this year. I marvel at this number and the fact that I’ve got just the one pair of boots.
Mental note to self: Another pair of boots would not be overly indulgent.
Where yesterday the ground was bare, four inches of white now cover the world. Tree limbs, snow-encrusted, hang heavily in the pre-dawn light; the roads have but a few tire tracks.
I stand in the middle of the road.
This town is mine.
It is two blocks to the bus stop. On the corner, it is just a sign stating “bus stop”, no enclosure. There is a woman there, shoveling. In early-morning, work-to-do fashion, she is wearing flannel pants, boots, a light jacket and gloves. Her hair, pulled into a disorganized ponytail, sticks to her face as she sweats her way toward a cleared sidewalk.
I stand in the street so as not to leave my boot prints where she will soon shovel.
I think I recognize her.
“This isn’t your house, is it?”
She looks up. “Nope.”
“But you live around here.”
“Yep,” she says. “Next door.”
“And you shovel both?”
She straightens up, arches her back and rolls her head from one shoulder to the other. She leans on her shovel, shrugs, jerks her head at the corner house. “We’ve been neighbors for, what, 20-some years now.” She lowers her voice. “She’s old. She can’t handle a house on the corner anymore, not in the winter.”
I smile at her, wonder if I will ever be as kind. “You’re wonderful, aren’t you?”
She laughs, a cheery bark in the blue-gray light of morning. “Oh, yeah,” she says, returning to her shoveling. “I’m some kinda wonderful all right.”
Moments later, we are joined by a young man. He nods shyly to me. He is quite new to the neighborhood, very new, but we have seen each other before.
I know that he does not speak English, and I will not embarrass him with my Spanish.
The young man looks at me from the sidewalk. It is clear, on his face: He is wondering why I am standing in the street.
He looks at the woman shoveling, looks down at his feet, then at the clear space she has created and it dawns on him: an untrod sidewalk clears better.
And he steps into the street.
Another day begins.