The predicted snow arrived last night. It is mostly over now. First snow doesn’t linger, though the cold still steals into the gaps around these old windows. I’m looking out on a damp grey world, more than halfway to winter sleep. But lilacs and oaks seem caught unawares, with green and yellow leaves hanging limp. Don’t know what more hint they required to see the approaching winter. It’s been cold enough, and there is no daylight. But then, oaks are stubborn and live by their own schedule.
Lilacs are just stupid.
I feel the cold every day now. I wish there were real treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, but the best Western medicine can do is prescribe palliatives that are patently terrifying. And that’s before you see the price tag. So I bear it as I can, but it is wearing. I feel like that lilac out there with all my energy so drained I can’t even hold up a leaf. Good time to sleep. For the entire winter.
But my attention is caught in the branches out there in the cold grey light. There are so many creatures still here active in my garden, when they should have bedded down or left for the tropics weeks ago. They’ve been led astray by the late warmth, the stretching of the summer heat that lacks the long day’s light to keep the vegetation alive. I wonder what happens when the goldfinches leave too late. If they need seed heads, it seems like they’ve already pushed it too far. There is nothing nodding in my perennial beds; they’ve picked it all clean. And the city has cut down the verge to make it easier on plows. So what are the finches eating, aside from the black cumin seed I put out? And how will they make it to where there are winter grasses, with so many degrees of cold latitude to travel in November?
These seem small concerns, but they do accumulate like snowflakes. A summer garden without goldfinch acrobatics is desolate. A world without goldfinches is wrong. And so much wrongness is being propagated by our cold heartlessness. It’s hard to reckon all the myriad small losses. We’ve already seen the end of the monarch and moth storms and firefly dances in June. And we’ve hardly noticed. When was the last time you saw a cedar waxwing or heard the clear call of an oriole or the liquid trill of the wood thrush? Have you ever heard a nightingale? Do you even know anyone who has?
Not only has the world lost vitality, but our human world has lost meaning. How does a child understand stories of singing caged birds when she’s never heard them sing freely in the trees? What does the distelfink on a great-grandmother’s quilt mean? Surely, it will no longer be the symbol of happiness and good luck when the goldfinches are gone.
November brings out the melancholy. It’s the cold. And the grey. And this relentless deep bone ache. I should be sleeping. But I’m awake in the darkness, watching the snow fall and worrying about goldfinches. And stupid lilacs.
for 17 November 2021
You can respond in the comments below or make a Twitter post to the Wednesday Word. Either way, begin your response with #sleep. Your response can be anything made from words. I love poetry, but anything can be poetic and you needn’t even be limited to poetics. An observation, a story, a thought. Might even be an image — however, I am not a visual person, so it has to work harder to convey meaning. In the spirit of word prompts, it’s best if you use the word; but I’m not even a stickler about that. Especially if you can convey the meaning without ever touching the word.
If responding in Twitter, you are limited to the forms of Twitter. I would prefer that there be no threads because that is difficult. So if you have something long, post it in the comments below. That said, please don’t go too long. Keep it under 2000 words. I’m not going to count, but I’m also not promising to read a novel. Unless it’s really good!
If I receive something particularly impressive, I’ll post it next week. If not, well, that’s fine too. I know you all are busy. But if you’ve read this far, then I’ve made you think about… sleep.
the teardrops of trees
she settles into cold silence dreams of her mother vestigial comfort permeating root to branch tastes echoes sweetness and mycorrhizal gossip hears chittering insect dispatch she buries awareness in heartwood and darkness lets wind toss bare limbs heedless the drowse bears her deep flowing thought in sleep dancing with long-dead sisters where light ne’er shines she sleeps now awaiting the sun’s rebirth when the world is remade anew she sleeps and dreams of her mother
©Elizabeth Anker 2021