Debra Marshall: Grateful, thankful

  • Ice forms, and a heart takes shape. Charley Freiberg

For the Monitor
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sweet myrtle, rosemary, wooly thyme, sweet fern, love-lies-bleeding, lady’s mantle, sea lavender, bay laurel, holy basil. Mourning dove, blue heron, silent red-tail hawk, gryphon, storm crow, raven’s blood. Fox glove, weeping willow, sweet birch, holy oak, bittersweet, evening primrose, mountain laurel.

Time lies suspended under the mountain, and the shadows of clouds sweep silently across the earth. In fall and in snow, under a full moon, trees stand out in sharp relief, and what is in the shadows fades rapidly into deep darkness. Bears hoot deep in the marsh in spring. Coyotes yap in a circle on the hilltops. Moose sometimes dance with us, in our cars, near the ponds where they come at night. A bobcat races across the road; a fox carries food to its den.

At 3 a.m. I glance out the window and see fire. Fire leaping, fire lunging; fire reflected from the woodstove, which I have just filled with paper birch. The birch fills the air with spicy incense. The smoke from a candle just blown out rises into the darkness gathering below the roof. Light shines from neighbor’s windows as we pass by in a late-night walk. Light is reflected in the eyes of loved ones gathered at table.

Strangers who amaze and fascinate; the voices of those who are beloved coming from another room, from a telephone, captured on tape or disc. Baked apples, hot cocoa, fragrant ginger, deep red sauces full of herbs. The fresh leaves of kaffir lime; the secret joy of ripe persimmons. The kitchen mouse that steals a cherry tomato but leaves the fresh-baked loaf untouched. Cheeses made from milk of cows who eat long grasses, and clover, and wild flowers, and dream of warm spring pastures in their winter stalls.

The scent of cloves in the ointment I rub on a sore muscle. The glory of a sunset, a full moon hanging ripe above the lake, a rainbow arcing aetherically across the lightening sky. Hot rice bags between the flannel sheets near the toes at night. Freezers filled to fullness; root cellar full to bursting. Balsam needles scenting the air; purple heather, dried and resting in a blue vase. An aquamarine kettle; a copper cup. Warm fingerless gloves; soft scarves, wooley hats. Waking in the dark stillness of night, listening, listening, hearing a soft purr near the ear.

The majestic crash and blow of storms; the comfort of sun-warmed grasses, a gentle breeze, a cricket’s creak. A song that makes the spirit soar; laughing until tears flow and we slowly fall onto the floor, overcome with mirth. A secret shared; a kindness received, a kindness given. Cheerful chickadees, the red flash of a cardinal, the knock-knock-knock of a woodpecker on a stark dead tree. Mushrooms in their secret places; mushrooms in the soup. A blooming cyclamen, a flowering hibiscus, with snow falling beyond the window in which they sit.

A pot of soup, heady with spices, simmering on the stove. Chocolate and oranges. The excited anticipation of a dog watching the human pull on coats, lift down the leash. The excited anticipation of waiting for the sacred turn of the year, the lengthening of days, the rise of light. The brush of fingers passing in a hall; the soft sweet ears of a child. The cat who lifts a paw to catch attention. The twinkle of lights on snow, on the tree in the corner of the room, in the dark, vast sky above our heads.

A story told with passion and skill; a quilt made long ago by the hands of great aunties. The pile of books waiting by the bed. A fresh pad of paper, a pen that fits the hand just so. Owls hooting in the darkness. Dark heads of an unknown critter, glimpsed in the moonlight, crossing and crossing and recrossing the pond. A pear galette, scented with vanilla and cardamom. A crust of bread, shared with a friend. The stream of joy that runs just below the surface, even in the bad times. The ability to hope. Comedians who can make us laugh about the things we dread. The ability to laugh at ourselves.

At 3 a.m. I glance out the window and see myself, reflected darkly in the glass. The house murmurs quietly about me; a log snaps in the woodstove, the Barkie Boy sighs in his sleep, a skittering comes from the kitchen, a Furry Person rouses and pads quietly by; a beam creaks, my chair scrapes on the floor, a draft wraps around my ankles. Shadows push me toward bed.

Comfort settles over me; my spirit is at rest. Grateful, thankful; grateful, thankful. The world is full.

(Debra Marshall lives in Wilmot. She blogs at herondragonwrites.blogspot.com.)