Snow, over which wind tracks of small animals, all circling the sole crab apple, like rough sketches of a giant lavaliere. A few last apples, brown and wizened, crowned with snow buntings, remind him of the monastery in Vermont ten years earlier.
He is essentially a eulogist, even unto himself, though playing fast and loose with the form.
The older dog goes back after lifting his front right paw to limp through the snow. An injury possibly feigned, if one can say that of dogs, because once pointed home he positively dances. A confrontation with snowmobiles a few weeks earlier has permanently altered his sense of the trail they walk, its safety. The other dog, younger, once blessed at a Buddhist temple in Thailand, harbors no such reservations.
He sees Blue Jays – predominant bird this winter, one that his grandfather – the one he is beginning to think was hiding secrets more painful than just the orphanage – hated for their raucous cries. Since the blackout, no lights or heat for six days, the cold has been impossible, interior, as if he swallowed a chunk of ice that now stands where his heart once did, its freeze adrift in the network of arteries, veins and capillaries. He wonders if there might not be something to this whole “flee to Florida” thing after all.
The dream he woke from – what even now he declines to write – is at last beginning to fade. Yet the conviction it left him while laying in bed – “I am not guilty!” – remains. This is partly a theological remnant of childhood, in which God was posited as a not-so-kind, all-seeing despot, but is also partly how the family secrets were – secreted, let’s say – through his parents, to him. He is only just beginning to understand this in terms of its effects. If timing is everything, he is doomed.
Though the walk invigorates, pleases. He hears chain saws somewhere west, “a mile or more away,” reminding him him of a Fall day in Kindergarten when Mrs. Gould took the class for a walk, asking them to stop every few minutes and tell her what sounds they heard, and all anybody could hear was chain saws. Her frustration was palpable – with the students, but also (he now sees) with whoever was cutting wood that morning, putting away for the gathering winter. The sound – a pleasant, a reassuring growl – now comes from the roughly the same spot in the landscape as it did then.
A day for traveling, this one in early January, 2009, decides the man without shoes.