I don’t want to write about how difficult things have been. It feels like I’m hitting a single note too often. I will say: I miss the trail.

This morning I saw a new doctor, and we’re making a plan. Driving home I noticed that most of the snow is already gone, even from the hollows and the fallow fields. The winds have picked up, and I can feel them even while driving the car on the motorway. I’m imagining them pushing me forward. Easy – no stumbling.

One good thing is that it’s safe to run again. No imperceptible patches of ice at the edges of each lamplight’s reach. “Black ice” they call it here, and it sounds very much like a curse word in my ear. The mornings are still dark, but less dangerous. The crunch of the gravel, the occasional snap of a twig. Nothing ominous. Nothing frozen in place. Whatever the foot meets gives just enough. Just enough to make this bit of the world, at this point in time, safe.

I miss the blackbirds that hop along the edges of the path, their orange beaks flashing like tiny flames – living talismans – the sun will rise – spring will come. I need to see them. To share the air with them in a real moment, not in a memory, in poems, in theory, as concepts.

I was listening to a woman on a podcast talking about how this “moment” in time is liminal – a transition. But what moment isn’t?

What isn’t?

What is it about us that we want to label things and order them in categories, as diagnosis, in blacklists, as offenses, and more rarely as joys? Someone’s “Golden Age” is someone else’s liminal Hell, waiting for “progress” to trickle down. Every future is an imagined future. Every past, formed: polished and neutered.

That was “this thing” and we are moving toward “that thing”. Is a construction of the imagination. But there are days when I think any myth will do, if it helps us to hold ourselves together.

After all these years, if I know anything, it’s that pinning down the right words – magic as they are – doesn’t change the phenomenon; any witch will tell you a spell isn’t a cure. And it can’t fix the world, in any sense of the word.

Walking Leonard, I pause while he tests the ice on a frozen puddle in the field. The surface over the yellow grass is smooth, and cloudy. I watch tiny white bubbles sliding away from me, nudging the clouds just under the surface. Trapped air, like fishes moving without moving. I find a reference point. Moving, not moving.

I take thirty seconds of film – and the world is absolutely still.

living memory
is an oxymoron too
familiar too
mythical too true to be
shoved into the lines of a poem

Yesterday I ran in the afternoon, after work and before a massage. Getting back into the groove of daily habits isn’t easy. Pushing a boulder uphill is easier with momentum. E. says that from here this is what matters: the pushing on after a pause. Pushing on.

The path along the creek in the town where I work is picturesque regardless of the season. Yesterday the sun was shining. The weather has stayed below freezing for weeks, so everything seems sugar-coated: Christmas-card pine trees. There was a 5-foot snowman guarding one of the goalposts on the football field.

But about 2 kilometers in, I came up on what was left of a blackbird. A full wing and foot, and tendrils of red – I don’t know, sinews? entrails? – in the middle of the path. There were no paw prints or blood smears, so I’m assuming it was dropped by a bird of prey.

I used to take photographs when I came across dead birds on my runs. I didn’t think much about why. I stopped taking them when my sons pointed out how bizarre it was that I had so many photos of dead birds in various states of decay on my computer screen. Maybe, at the time, it was an unconscious act of memori morti: I suppose photography is a kind of meditation.

At any rate, it no longer seems necessary. The photo-taking.

I notice these things now without having to use the camera as a tool. I pause anyway.

E. and I managed to get ourselves up and out the door before dawn this morning. The first time in a month. The sky had the perfect amount of clouds to soften the cold, but leave the waning moon unobscured over the trees. The lake was silent. I talked too much. There are mornings when we get back to the trail-head and I think I need to do it again, “right”. Mornings like these.

Back at the house, I moved through sun salutations then settled down on the mat. Leonard contorting his back oddly to lie close into my legs for the six minutes of breathing.

I rest my hands on his rib-cage. Everything is impermanent. Everything is imperfect.

Snow falls from the crows’
settling in the treetops
for half an hour’s rest
and chatter – moving on, touch
and go, always touch and go