Flora and fauna
Boozhoo! Aaniin! Welcome to the midweek(ish) version of An Irritable Métis. This is where things are usually a little more random, a little less … irritable. If you forgot what all this is even about, you may remind yourself here. If you want to help keep a writer out of hard labor, occasional shoveling of snow notwithstanding, well….
One of those unusual but not entirely unexpected spring snow storms blew into Montana while I was in Boulder. Day two of my visit resulted in a snow day at both schools where I was invited to speak so we stiff-armed those presentations out a day, which meant I had to linger through Tuesday into Wednesday. Given how bad the storm was – multi-foot drifts, mountain passes in both directions out of town gone treacherous, and the first time I’ve ever actually had to dig myself out of a motel room – I was content to remain and get some work done.
The stay was something of a strange and surreal experience and it’s left me wondering how any of us are clinging to any sanity or peace of mind at all. I’m talking about isolation and COVID. The room I stayed in – kind of a suite but small; a room with a bed and a couple sitting chairs, a little kitchenette with a table I used for a desk, and a bathroom – met all of the favorable qualifications necessary whenever I ask myself, “Could I live in a space like this?” But even so, by mid-morning I was getting a little eager to get out of it. I sat in one of the chairs and reflected. To get out was going to require some time with a snow shovel, which was fine … but what if even that wasn’t available to me? At no point during the COVID lockdown was I ever in a situation where I was actually locked down. What if I had been one of those people in a larger city confined to their dwelling, unable to leave to walk around really anywhere?
I love my solitude but it requires room to wander and I don’t know how well I’d have fared in that situation. I was already feeling vile from a couple days of gross food (Boulder isn’t going to attract foodies from anywhere, let me just leave it at that) and not enough exercise. This room, even alone in it, would have been claustrophobic. What if I was sharing it with others? For months? It would have been a struggle. We are not made to be crammed into tiny spaces like this. I think the ramifications of all that COVID inflicted on our collective psyche will be something we will deal with for a long time … assuming it’s behind us, which may not even be the case.
The best part of the entire trip was probably the digging out of my truck, the cold wind in my face, and then navigating through drifts of snow and out to the main road to just see what was what. It was good to be out.
Now I’m sitting beside a park in Ronan, Montana. For once it is the starlings who are outnumbered, in this instance by robins prancing about in the greening grass, stabbing at the ground with their faces. A crow is carrying on for who-knows-why from the upper branches of a tree. The highway a few blocks behind me, to the east, is a constant rumble.
It’s crazy the blur time can be. It’s not been even twenty-four hours since I left Boulder under a bright sun on a cold day, via a highway, and then an interstate, both mostly dry except for wet patches. If a passerby didn’t stop in town and see the massive piles of snow in parking lots and such they would know nothing of the recent storm’s fury. Events occur, they pass, and we go on about our lives. That 30’ of guardrail – of broken posts and twisted metal – I passed will be repaired. Later, in some cases, a little white cross will appear on the shoulder of the road with faded plastic flowers and a few people will remember what happened here. Most who pass won’t even see them.
I notice these memorials and wonder, even as I avert my eyes from roadkill. I wish it were easier to choose my memories; remember the echoing warmth of close relationships gone cold rather than feel the sorrow in the chilling.
Parked, I feel like I’ve yet to cease moving. I think I’m waiting for the better parts of my spirit to catch up.
Now a flapping of wings and the raucous, obnoxious wheeze of a nearby gull. Is this one recognizing my truck as the source of the occasional tossed potato chip? Sorry, friend. No grease for either of us today.
The first two things read to me by children this morning were letters to dead pets and I’m sitting parkside trying to rally my good humor. When I am tired, as I am today, it is more difficult to keep a lid on my tendencies toward sadness and these kids … well, they’ve had to endure in many, if not most, cases more than they should have to.
A battered, mostly green old Subaru pulls up and parks on the other side of the street. An age-indeterminate woman in pajama pants and an oversized gray hoodie, hood up, gets out while at least three other people wait inside the car. A cigarette dangles from one hand while the other holds a cell phone to the side of her face. I can hear a faint, electronified voice. She mutters her responses. I can’t make out any words. She coughs a deep, phlegmy cough and spits thickly and loudly into the street. Soon she’s back in the car and it drives away with the clatter of what sounds like a loose muffler.
The sun is trying to shine but like mine today, the effort feels weary and half-hearted. It isn’t a frigid mid-April but it isn’t particularly warm either.
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