These short winter days can be hard. Grey days where the sun rises but little warmth comes from it. Then before you know it, it is dipping down beyond the horizon and night comes. The afternoon is measured out in the number of times the heater kicks on. The roads are icy, the steam and smoke rises from the chimneys of houses up and down the street. Nowadays there isn’t the acrid scent of woodsmoke in the air. The stores are much emptier than they would be less than two weeks from Christmas.
In what used to be a busy season, people are staying home, which is fine. I don’t feel like Peopleing much these days anyway. Winter was never my favorite season, mostly from being a sickly kid and knowing that an auditorium filled with coughing kids for the school Christmas Program would always end with me on antibiotics in less than a week. But I did love skating and sledding and innertubing and trudging through the snow, reinacting the scenes from Hoth in Empire Strikes Back with my husky, Scooter.
Today, I am in the middle of moving things around, cleaning, boxing things up. Getting ready to leave a lot of things behind that I have grown accustomed to over the last twenty years. Today I watched Fiddler on the Roof, and so many of the things of this movie affected me in different ways. Watching your children grow up, losing people you love, and even uprooting yourself from not only the place you have called home, but also your traditions that have kept things for falling apart. Some of those traditions could be called a rut. Who is to say that ahead lies a better way?
What I see in the place I am now is a place where people live in fear. 25 years ago, I first made these observations. I was a kid used to freedom. My hometown was boring, but you could drive for twenty minutes and be in the mountains, hiking in places that people in the Front Range see only in postcards. I was dating a girl at the time who lived in the suburbs of Denver. Her parents (her mother at least) used to refer to me as a bohunk or a hick. The extent of her worldliness was that she hardly ever left the house. They would videotape movies and TV shows to watch in their basement theatre setup. Other than the store (and work for the dad), or school for the girl I was dating, their window into the world was mostly the TV. Yet, I was the hick.
There were always rumors of a train derailment, or crime, or a home intruder, or some sort of external boogieman that kept them locked safely inside their home. Today, I see that on a large scale. The news, the government, little signs all over town telling us to be afraid, be very afraid. And anyone who raises a hand and says “None of this sounds right,” is shouted down. You are trying to kill helpless old people! You need to trust the science! You need to cover your face and bend the knee! It is emotionally exhausting. Between that and the traffic and the fear of gangs and racism and the every-shifting tides of popular opinion, it’s a wonder there is a shred of sanity left in any of us.
It will be good to leave it.
I’m tired of these grey days. The red lights. These days people are filled with a lot more worries and arguments than they are handshakes, hugs, smiles, or laughter. Though I will miss my daily trip to get coffee, I have felt like I am outgrowing that place these days. The smiles and short visits seem hollow anymore. The shine has worn off. The faces and names are all changing. People come and go. And I feel like that tall stone in a field that just watched the seasons pass, the grasses grow fall before the blade and grow again, never growing myself.
I have my work cut out for me, but at least it is honest work. My poetry professor in college used to say “Writing is lying.” I don’t agree with that anymore. I think writing is honesty. Tolerating what we see and hear without comment is lying. As the pictures come down from my walls and the books find their places in boxes, a life built here for the last six years is slowly draining out of this place. On the floor are marks left by heavy furniture which is no longer in the place it stood, closets empty out, the rooms increase in size, inviting the potential of the next resident.
I have finally given myself permission to do this. Something I should have done years ago but didn’t have the opportunity. Instead I kept my head low at work, with my ex-wife, with everything, just letting the world pass me by. It’s time to start moving forward again.
Soon, the days will get longer, the rains will come, the sun will shine. Five. Ten years will pass. Then many more. New friends will be made, old friends will fade away. Painful memories will have dulled and the sharp edges will be filed off with time. Maybe the busy world of the cities will find some peace, because right now, I don’t have much hope for places like this. It’s no place to grow up or wind up. A place where people cannot think for themselves anymore. Just waiting for the next wave to crest and maybe, just maybe if they keep their heads down, they can hold on long enough for the next one, and the next, and so on until the end.
It is best to follow opportunity, which is what I am doing. I don’t need to play mother-may-I anymore while we all sit on a sinking ship. It’s time for something better.