March 12, 2018

disparate things

Today is likely the last of our world-washed-white snow days in North Carolina, save for up in the higher mountain elevations.  School was out and folks stayed home or went home early, which means that I drove to work and stayed there long after everyone said the roads were getting slick and they had seen several cars in ditches.  I worked all day and then hit the grocery store to do my normal Monday shopping, undeterred.  I smiled as I crossed the parking lot and held out my hand while the flakes fell steadily, landing on my nose and glasses and sleeves, blowing gently against my face.  Snow never loses its magic.  I am recklessly unafraid of it.

While in the store, I stopped and looked at school supplies, since the kid has a big project coming due.  A very pretty single-subject notebook caught my eye.  I picked it up and traced the foil leaves on its cover, and opened it to the first page.  New, empty notebooks are symbolic of birth, open-ended possibilities, and fresh starts.  No doors slammed yet, no path begun.  The dumbfounded stare at the first line of the first page comes from knowing that once pencil is put to it, the thing is made, or named, or declared to be what it is.  Such pressure to decide.  It has to count.  But the white sheet, the pristine first piece of paper inside, is perfect until it is touched.

I bought the notebook, for which I have no need whatsoever.  I bought it because it is pretty and perfect and I have made so many mistakes and it knows nothing of mistakes, eraser marks and mark-outs and frizzles left behind from torn-out paper.  It's newborn.  It hasn't had a chance yet.

I intentionally checked out in John's aisle.  It turns out he's from Chesapeake Bay, not up North.  He was talkative today.  It isn't hard to get anyone, even John, fired up about Southern drivers in snow and ice.

I pulled into the garage at home and went around to the back of the car to get the bags of groceries, and that is when I saw the dead sparrow lying there at the threshold of the garage door.  It wasn't frozen, or mauled in any way.  Just dead.  An ending.  I put on gloves and took a spade and dug it a grave, and I buried it, after holding it for a bit to make sure it really was dead.  It was.  It is now in the ground.

It's a matter-of-fact thing that you do, burying the dead, writing an ending.  I didn't cry.  I was focused, instead, on how a year ago, I was almost a dead sparrow.  I don't believe in portents.  I do believe in reflecting on what I encounter.

Birth and death.  And if death comes before its time, someone has to remove the remaining sheets in the notebook, rip them out and meticulously pick bits out of the metal spirals with fingers, so the notebook holds no further possibilities.  If death comes when it is due, the notebook will be full, cover to cover.  This, then, is the difference.

I am a living sparrow.  I am still writing.

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