On Being Small

I keep on trying to write something but don’t. I worry if I start the year this way, tongue tied and quiet, I won’t know how to come out of it. Sometimes in the snow you don’t know how deep it is until you fall in, and you’re surprised when your hands never catch ground— the sinking of something so lovely feels unnatural. A reminder that we do not truly know the limits of our own world. Like an earthquake. Like an undertow.

Here the world is so quiet that I have learned quiet has a sound. Every time I try to write in the past weeks I start a sentence by saying, I am small. I am so small that I do not know what else to say. I think it must be the trees I am surrounded by here. Tall, towering, like watchers across the front yard… and beyond, and up the mountain. In their bigness and their silence I am made small.

They evoke a similar kind of awe as the ocean does — only they are constant in their stillness as the ocean is constant in its movement. There is a hand carved sign down the road that says the trees behind it were taken out by a sudden microburst in 1986, the same year I was born. The sign says the trees will be replanted. And it’s an odd moment because of the tense of the sign and how it calls attention to time, because the trees behind it are full grown and you would never know of the weather anomaly at all if not for the sign still standing there.

We are writing a poem about walking in the snow and I think about it a lot. What else do I do here? I slice potatoes and wait for the sun to go down. I talk to the dog. It seems more and more likely the rest of the world is an apparition and impossible that the rest of it isn’t watching the snow fall every afternoon. I understand more now than ever what she meant when she said winter is a season of self. It’s about learning how to be quiet, and still, and small.

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