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Keeping Darkness At Bay

By Doris Dembosky

When was the last time you changed your clothes?

Mostly housebound, I’ve worn the same clothing for four or five days. I’ve lost count. Some days I’m not even sure what day it is.

Recently I stumbled across “Windchime,” a poem by Tony Hoagland. The poem begins:

She goes out to hang the windchime in her nightie and her workboots. It’s six-thirty in the morning, and she’s standing on the plastic ice chest tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch, windchime in her left hand, hammer in her right, the nail gripped tight between her teeth.

I love this! Tony Hoagland could be writing about any of us living in Central Colorado.

Life is bleak when every conversation begins with, “How cold was it at your house this morning?”

The cold has been relentless in Westcliffe. Moisture-laden clouds build over the Sangres, and there they hang—solid as a brick wall.

Sometimes the wind nudges the clouds over the peaks, and they tumble down to the Valley floor where they settle like a rain-soaked, frozen tarp.

My fingers seem to be extensions of a wooden marionette’s hands. The person pulling the strings is inept.

Yesterday a tsunami-like cloud approached and threatened to drown us, but the cloud froze in place. If only it had swept over the Valley floor and refreshed the fallow hay fields.

Coming of age in Upstate New York, two or three feet of snow was common throughout the winter.

Sledding, tobogganing, and ice skating (unattended after school on farm ponds—what was my mother thinking!) ruled our days.

I do not remember ever being cold. I do remember stashing my winter coat at the side of the road before getting on the school bus.

Cool kids did not wear coats in the winter. I was not cool, but I tried.

Now I’m cold all the time. What has changed? My metabolism? I remember how we kids laughed at all the old folks who wintered in Florida or Arizona. “What whimps!”

We thought them weak—undeserving of living Upstate and braving the winter where men were men and women were tougher.

I’m through pretending to be tough. I’m a lot like a fat cat, curled up by a blazing fire. Flames lick the glass, and a cast-iron kettle steams on top of the wood stove.

I’m in the zone. I read. I write. I feed the birds. I look forward to gardening.

I refuse to comment on politics and the pandemic. I’ve had enough! All the pain and anguish we experienced in 2020 is old news.

2021 is a new year. It is time to take a deep breath. Gurney’s spring catalog promoting ‘Bright Lights Chard’ is on its way.

Are you feeling needy? I think most people are.

I’m reminded of going to an animal shelter. All the dogs have soulful, heart-rending eyes.

Walking down the aisles, you notice big-personality, tail-wagging dogs who promise to be the best dog ever.

Other dull-eyed dogs cringe in the corner of their cage. Which dog will you adopt?

I’ve been thinking that like the shelter dogs, we are all needy. Not needy for adoption, but needy for human interaction.

Have you noticed that everyone is talking more? You only have to make eye contact, and complete strangers will start talking in paragraphs.

Cleaning up after the 2020 holidays, I came to a basket of Christmas cards, and love leapt out of the basket and warmed my heart. So much so, that I wrote a poem I titled, “Blest Be.”

Outside, January howls like a rabid wolf. Inside, on the dining room hutch, a brass basket of Christmas cards nestles in a branch of desiccated pine boughs.

The holidays are long gone, but the cards and letters linger their pen-to-paper lines recounting one couple’s Caribbean cruise and another’s purchase of a Prius.

A third letter boasts of their son’s career on Wall Street. Photos of the cruise, the Prius, and the successful son expand the text.

The letters do not, of course, cover less celebratory topics: devastating acts of nature, drug addiction or infidelity. Never mind. I’m good at reading between the lines.

I’ve kept the cards because an invisible thread runs from the writer, through the cards, directly to me.

Despite living life at warp-speed, texting and tweeting on-the-run, friends have taken the time to write a personal note, and I am warmed by the words threading through tightening the ties that bind.

Unfortunately, talking and reading the eyes above a mask are all we have. It is not enough. We are needy, and we want more.

February is right around the corner. The days will be longer and lighter: we should all be feeling better.

Maybe February would be a good time to feed the need of those you love with a handwritten note to be delivered by the post office.

Let’s tighten the ties that bind.

Doris Dembosky, a former employee at Jim Little’s Wet Mountain Tribune, is dressed for the weather. She waddles when she walks and might be mistaken for the Michelin Man.