A Dark, Sunny Place

Spring is the season of hope and optimism, fertility and life, mating and nesting, buds and sprouts; also spontaneity, which unexpectedly seized me noontime Sunday.

It all begins Saturday night at 10, returning home from day two of “Writing Naturally,” a three-day environmental-writing workshop led by “Orion” magazine editor H. Emerson Blake. The circle discussions drew 16 kindred creative-writing spirits to the snowy, wooded, Rowe Conference Center mountain retreat.

Immediately greeting me following a long day that began at dimmest dawn are two long, thin piles of soft, wet snow — one deposited by a plow, extending some 60 feet across the foot of my driveway, the other nearly 40 feet long, dropped in front of the carriage sheds by our slate roof. A warm overnight forecast left flexibility for snow-blowing chores. No urgency. The piles would only shrink and soften in the next day’s sun.

In the backyard kennel, my two frisky English springer spaniels are likely restless. The workshop had forced cancellation of our daily, morning, riverside ramble they so anticipate and enjoy. They would have to wait. I’d visit them shortly, but first had to get inside to greet my wife and two grandsons, the boys so in need of our love and affection. Life has not been fair to the sweet, young, fatherless schoolboys, dealt by fate a heartbreaking hand.

I greet the boys harboring internal thoughts of deuces: two workshops; two vulnerable grandsons; two annoying spring snow piles; two forlorn dogs awaiting attention; and the two of us to help teach the boys life’s lessons. Although even a sucker knows the probability of winning with deuces is slim, sometimes you just have to play them and hope the heavens are smiling.

Next morning, I awaken to a bright low sun softly illuminating my bedroom through light-colored curtains, sleeping cat Kiki cuddled to my belly. I pet her. She rolls over, affectionately exposing her underbelly. I lightly scratch her chest and massage her shoulders and armpits. She purrs. I roll to the right, stand to greet the new day and walk to the bathroom door, where my bathrobe hangs from a brass hook. The smell of fresh coffee is inviting.

I walk into the kitchen and Joey is standing at the counter preparing breakfast for the kids, slicing fruit as she awaits the toaster’s whistle and pop. The boys are playing video games. Jordie, wearing headphones and looking like a character out of “The Jetson’s,” is into his Xbox mode on the dining-room TV. Arie, curled snugly on his side in a La-Z-Boy, is focused on his mini-iPad in the adjacent parlor. Eight thirty-six on the Eli Terry shelf clock pleading for its daily winding. As I had been leaning at midnight, I was now certain, facing the mid-afternoon start to a new workweek, that I would not be attending the workshop’s final half-day. I had absorbed enough over the first two days, and felt an overpowering responsibility to the kids, due to depart in just a few hours. Then I’d tackle the looming snow-removal chores under bright, endless blue skies that displayed not a wisp of a cloud anywhere.

I flick on a Sunday TV news program for background noise in Arie’s parlor and try to catch up on his recent adventures. Time flies. In no time, it’s 11:30 and my wife and grandsons are rolling down the driveway toward Vermont.

Having seen them off, I return inside, dress for my walk with the dogs, grab my keys, and retrieve from under the sink an aerosol can of silicone lubricant to leave out in the hot sun for later application to the snow-blower. I fire-up the truck and back it out alongside the old, stone, moss- and lichen-blotched stockyard hitching post. There, I open the truck’s cap, tailgate and porta-kennels and walk back to the dogs, kenneled along Hinsdale Brook, roaring like a dangerous Nor’easter wind. Anxious Lily barks impatiently as she always does. Stoic Chubby stands tall and straight, on full alert, ears perked, tail wagging enthusiastically. They know it’s time to eat, take a short ride and race willy-nilly around familiar riverside meadows. Maybe on this fine day they’d even take a springtime dip in the milky, swollen Green River down by the big old apple tree slightly overreaching the west bank, some roots exposed by erosion.

Less than an hour later, we’re back home, refreshed and fulfilled. I re-kennel the dogs and empty what’s left from a plastic gallon jug into their water bowl before returning out front to the carriage sheds. There, I lube the snow-blower chute and blades, start the tractor and leave it on low idle as I return inside to refill the jug. Task complete, I return out to the tractor, take a seat, disengage the emergency brake, open the throttle, engage the snow-blower and break through the carriage-shed pile. More than a half-hour later, it and the slushy pile at the foot of the driveway are wet shadows on the road and driveway; that and random pale-white blotches on greening grass.

I park between the carriage sheds and flagpole, use a battered old broom to partially clean wet snow from the snow-blower’s chute and blades, and leave the machine out in the hot sun to melt away what’s left. Time to return inside to shower and start thinking about the start of a new workweek. I pass through the bright, sunny, rectangular west parlor into my warm, sunny bedroom, bed tidy, cat elsewhere. The bright, warm rays pull my attention out the two double-hung windows and I instantly focus on the wall between them, where a narrow, 11-drawer spice chest is screwed head-high. Centered atop this little punkin’-pine chest, which I first remember on a thin, paneled wall between doors in spinster great-aunt Gladys’ kitchen, are two small, capped, metal urns decorated with geometrical designs. Colored gold and silver, they hold my sons’ ashes.

Another deuce had been dealt, casting a melancholy hue over a bright, warm place following a weird, unseasonable storm.

Mesmerized briefly in poignant mental meanderings, I promptly sat at the kitchen table and composed this spontaneous response to that.

Work could wait.

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