Winter takes Queen

img_6468One of the signs of getting older is realizing there’s only one sweater you really need and then sticking to it, hanging it like a coat in the entryway for quick and easy access: and because you happen to be older it becomes ‘an old man’s sweater,’ but just think how hard it will be to get rid of after you’ve gone, how much your essence and aroma will come to inhabit it, and they’ll see the old man sweater at last for what it really is, you.

It was remarkably gray and downcast for the time of year, this Saturday morning. Because we could, there was nothing else to do, I took Charlotte out for breakfast some place we could really settle in and soak things up, and take our time.

We went back to the alehouse and moved in a beat from the topic of Valentine’s Day to Dawn’s dad’s grave and visiting it (since he died that day), and then a messy thread about Hell, the fact people in coffins in the ground must be closer to it, and the logic there: like how does it work if they go to Heaven, instead?—and I said these are abstract, psychological places (not physical) but she crossed her arms and pushed out her lip and called in stuff she’d learned from church, and I sucked on my drink and realized others were probably listening and what I said wasn’t coming out right, and I didn’t care.

Back home it was time to wax the wooden carving board, which you do with bees wax: I ran it along the scarred surface then into the gutters around the sides, the ones where all the blood and juices run, and thought what a good project manager I must be, getting in all the little cracks and crevices and really enjoying it, tuning things up.

The dog shedding prematurely left a riot of hair in the den, it flaked anytime you touched something like dried flower petals except it was all hair, hair that seemed interminable as grains of sand, that rose in a chaotic swirl and settled down again, that clung to stocking feet, that gave a costume of unkempt no matter your attire, it didn’t matter in the den.

And I saw myself for a second truly old, saw myself through the image of my mom’s brother Dave and his sweater, his features like my mom’s but white-haired and leaning forward more, each year: I saw my forehead and imagined it felt hardened like candle wax, like after it’s melted way down and gets knobby and weird, with so many folds and valleys melted and distorted, it almost looks like a face.

Outside something was definitely in bloom, but shifted when I tried to identify it. It had been raining so hard and for so long our gravel road was overcome with impromptu streams and runoff, a chaotic cross-hatch pattern, a messy braid, even the recently refilled potholes reopening, the color of chocolate milk.

There was no one at the lake, no surprise. No pleasantness or pitter-patter in the rain, just random, unresolved anger. And here is the majesty of winter I thought, not the starkness at the onset but its determination right up until the end, its death grip on the leg. If spring was about rebuilding and summer to enjoy it, fall to harvest, then winter was a season of reduction and reckoning, to refill all these holes, to watch how easily they reopen.

Categories: death, musings

Tags: , , , , , , ,

20 replies

  1. Your writing’s nothing like an old man’s sweater. It is like summer in my wintry inbox.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Don’t know how you do this, but it’s always rewarding to read your writing. Rewarding in a … you’re making me think.

    I was going to make a ridiculously snarky comment about the old man’s sweater (that I’ve grown up generally believing one only needs one sweatshirt (or sweater) and one or two jackets and I married a woman who thinks you need 80 of each and has taught our sons to be like her) but, no, I can’t do that. This is so much deeper than the idea of one sweater.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha that’s luscious as a peach, your comment Mark…should have a cold one with me here by the fire and we can wax poetic about the rain purring outside…


      • Coincidentally, I have a cold one but no fire. And I’m listening to All I Need by Mat Kearney … which has these lines that just rip me up every time I hear the song.

        I know I love you, if that’s all we can take
        A pool is running for miles on the concrete ground
        We’re eight feet deep and the rain is still coming down
        The TV’s playing it all out of town
        We’re grabbing at the fray for something that won’t drown

        Liked by 1 person

      • Good. Sounds like a good place to be right now, enjoy that–and the cutting-up part, I get that. Good to feel, even when it hurts.


  3. Bill, it’s been a while since I’ve commented on a post. I read them every time you post and look forward to receiving them in my Inbox!

    I really enjoyed your paragraph about the sweater. The words feel like something comfortable to slip into.

    Twice this week you’ve mentioned the heady fragrance outside. Next time you sense it, look around for a small evergreen shrub. It has deep green glossy leaves with sharply pointed ends. As you get closer, you’ll see small trumpet-shaped white flowers clustered all along the stems at the base of the leaves. It is called Sweetbox if you want to do an image search to aid you with a visual. I always enjoy catching the scent of that plant every January mingled with the winds and rain. It defiantly declares that Spring is on its way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most awesome comment ever and mainly because how much I love my dude-man Tim! Thank you for calling out the specimen, I think you’re right…how cool of you to read and let me know, thanks my brother! Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great writing, Bill, but especially enjoyed the ‘messy thread about Hell’ with Charlotte. All sorts of sensations came bursting out between the words and lines in that sparely conjured interlude.


  5. the majesty of winter. i like that.


  6. This is one of those pieces I like, but don’t entirely understand. Winter Takes Queen makes me expect a chess reference. How the image of the broken flower pot and the story you relate connect to each other is like slender threads that tie up loose sections in a tapestry. But, I’m looking at the back and cannot tell what the picture is. Still, it is pretty. Perhaps I need caffeine before reading in the morning.


    • Ha, I’m glad you think it’s pretty! But yes, ambiguity inside this and other posts I write. They’re not all entirely self-contained, if that makes sense…there is theme I am trying to discover and develop that goes above and beyond individual pieces..and while I do spend at least 50% of my time in the editing phase, I still leave in some ambiguity. The “A” word is a danger spot for readers I understand, so I’m also pushing the limit and trying to see how far I can go while still maintaining the threads…like fishing line, maybe seeing how far around it can go without snapping. But it’s good to know when I’ve gone too far, and I appreciate knowing…and now, my turn with the caffeine! There’s a clot of fog in my den now.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A few years older than you, I can relate to the sweater. Mine’s getting so pilly and thin it doesn’t really do what it’s supposed to do anymore, but I don’t want to replace it. Think I’ll wear it under the next one …


  8. Great thread, I say, wearing my old woman’s sweater and contemplating the determined death grip of winter, and how all the potholes of my life break open one by one no matter how I try to fill them back in.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. And I don’t even own any sweater. I do, however, had a quiver of jackets, ranging from windbreakers to a fake-down “Michelin Man” jacket. Too, I have an even larger quiver of polypro/capilene layers: inner layer, middle layer, outer layer. And, finally, the same sorta quiver of ski caps/watchman caps of varying thicknesses. All that to say that I do have one jacket that’s my go-to pullover. One elbow wore through, couple of months ago, so I taped over the thin spots. It needs washing, go figure, but I’m afraid that, now, it’s the dirt that’s keeping it all still together.

    I see winter as the season where the underground work is done that allow the fecundity of springtime. All that’s come to pass in the year is covered over, where it ferments and composts, fertilizing, nourishing, and setting up the new growth to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s beautiful your description of winter, it’s good, thanks. The sweater you describe makes me think of Kurt Cobain. I think he popularized those old man sweaters (out here at least, in the PNW).

      Liked by 1 person

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