I sat in the den watching Ginger chew the water buffalo horn, the wash of drool that makes it slick and hard to maw. I scratched the webbing behind my knee that’s been giving me trouble. There was a mild arousal to the sound, how it made my gums tingle. The wind was really kicking up and making for a show of theatrics, giving the trees a good grooming with limbs all over the lawns and roads. It made a frothy sound like ocean surf, a cleansing feeling, the dog chewing her bone a dull sawing sound, the grinding of bone on bone, of Roman soldiers marching, slaves dragging rock across sand. I wanted to be out in the wind to feel it coarse through me, to feel alive again for a spell. Here was only the humdrum of the classic radio hosts, the constant sound of something I don’t care about. Though it soothed, it gave the impression of contact but wasn’t the same as the real thing.
Outside on our street no one was around, though it was mid-day: they were all tucking their cars into garages and peeping out their windows at the coming storm. Three feet of snow in the mountains they said; one of the major passes closed, arctic air flowing in from the Fraser river valley in western Canada. And up our road it was like the aftermath of a German Christmas market with all the tree limbs down, the smell of fresh pine, no need for candles or incense. The tall trees were bending back in dramatic poses with their arms thrust skyward on their knees. I imagined myself at the top of a river canyon, the way the wind starts in one direction and builds, then sweeps in to cover everything. And when it goes out again how quiet everything gets, like the wind carves out its own space—then returns to widen it further, a slow scouring out, or sloughing off.
We had gone out on a date night, and the girls slept over at my mother-in-law Beth’s. We hurried to the restaurant to get parking and they asked if we were ready to order or wanted to take some time with our drinks first, and I said yes, let’s wait. I ordered the Oscar again, a filet mignon with crab on top and butter sauce—and when the waitress asked if I’d like a glass of wine I said yes, but you pick, something that goes nicely with the beef–and when she asked what I thought of it I said exquisite, and then I thought what a dick I must sound like, sometimes you change without realizing it.
In the morning the kids were still gone so Dawn and I drove to nearby Woodinville for brunch, a town built around wineries and boutiques, with a nursery Dawn likes—then I split wood when we got home, vacuumed, picked out a chili recipe, returned to the den after my walk, collapsed on the sofa: with always somewhere else to be, at times it’s just nice to be here.
When it was time, Lily joined me in the kitchen and I taught her how to use a can opener. You think kids know how to do things like that, but they don’t unless you show them. Then I demonstrated how to stir the onions and peppers in the spices while it cooks without getting food all over the place. And we got a fire going and watched the movie Wonder, soaked in the hot tub until we couldn’t stand it anymore, then laid around the sofa with the dog and cat curled up beside us. In the middle of the night I looked outside for snow, for signs of white—but it was just cold looking and still.
In the morning I walked to the lake and stood there, thought it’s open spaces like this, like oceans or big skies, that remind us of how much space we have inside ourselves—that maybe when we feel empty it’s just the wind cleaning us out to make room for something new, so we can feel full again.
Photo of Blue Glacier on Mount Olympus, Washington peninsula, August, 2017.