The Ordinary Now

Winter CowI have found myself drinking in the deep elixir of staring back into ordinary moments from my childhood in Illinois.

Drawn from a well of a bluish dark winter and an almost-night walk from farmhouse to fence; seeing in the fast fading light the corrugated aluminum water trough anchored to mud mad solid by months of freezing temps ; breaking the icy surface of water with a broom handle as my pony Tim-Tam stood by.  His head down, nearly touching the last surviving blades of grass made fragile by the frost and freezes, days upon days in January’s Midwest.

I don’t have a lot of memories of my childhood.

I don’t remember conversations or teacher’s names. I can’t tell you about birthday parties or my grandpa’s funeral, or much about how I spent time other than lonely languid days in my room, or sitting on the dirt at the edge of the hedge – an isolated island in an ocean of my family’s grain fields.

So it has been odd for me that in the past few years, every so often, one seemingly nothing yet distinctive moment comes to mind with such a clarity of experience, senses, and wonder that I’ve looked for a place to paint its emergence. And so it has become not non-descript at all.

And now, for some inexplicable reason, this seems like a place to try. Like finding a place to lodge a wee bit of my story into an already wailing wall.

And a prayer.

There was no one there but me, a light wind, and the terrible cutting cold. I was probably wearing a pair of Dad’s tall rubber work boots from the back porch, but I am sure I had on the tan car coat with heavy-duty zipper and fur lined hood – the edges of the sleeves made gray by the years of us all wearing it to do outdoor chores. The inside, slightly ripped flannel lining softened the blow of inclement weather.

The walk from the porch to pasture is not very far; not very far at all.

I can hear the dead of stillness; the crunch of my footsteps against the path of packed snow and ice. And I can nearly see now, all these years and places and faces later the dreary dead of winter painted in brushes of grays and blues – crowding out the once sparkling winter white of snow.

And that’s all.

That’s all there is to describe, and yet it is enough to tell so much about me. Or why else would it be the near clearest of memory following me and finding me after all of these years?

I think sometimes to try to paint that color, or to speak about it to someone out loud. But what sound can you use to explain a fifty-year ring of silence, and what shade could possibly match a landscape of color caught between dusk and night?

So I’ll leave it here.

As my nod to winter and anniversary of another January without the family who was in the warm house that day of winters way back when, and in wonder as to how our pasts can be provocative reminders to notice and cherish the ordinary now.