February

The little pear tree in the middle of the meadow looks so tiny, small and lonely in the sea of white snow which now buries its trunk up to its lowest branches. Out in the barn tiny mice are hidden away in nests of cardboard shreds and rope fibers and string and strips of fabric pulled from old rags and carefully constructed inside idle old farm equipment and wherever they think they can stay warm and safe for the winter. The hungry feral barn cats survive by sniffing them out for a meal, if they can, or venture up to the old log cabin where they know they will find a bowl of cat food left out for them on the back deck. They must summon up their bravery, or have their fear overcome by hunger, to sneak up there through the deep snow, for if they aren’t careful and stealthy, George, the dog at the cabin, will sound the alert if he hears them on the deck late at night. Then all hell will explode and wake the whole house as he jumps off the warm crowded bed to jump against the thick glass of the back doors making all the noise he can manage.

Tonight, thankfully, the glass panes resist once again and refuse to come crashing down in a wave of shimmering diamonds—as they did once long ago when another dog took offense against feline intruders—keeping him inside, and the freezing cold and the brave hungry kitty safe, and now belly-full, outside.

“Thieves!” he barks like a mad dog. “Thieves! There are thieves on the deck! Oh! My! Gawd! Stop them!”

Running back to the bed he jumps on the slumbering shapes there in a desperate plea to stir them to action.

‘Don’t you understand what’s going on,’ he seems to be saying. ‘My Gawd! There is a cat, a CAT I tell you, on the porch and he’s eating!! Do something!’ he begs to no avail.

Grumbling, the humans under the piles of covers, roll over and mutter to themselves and go back to sleep. George finally gives up and piles in alongside them. Soon Evelyn, the house cat, comes out of hiding from wherever she was startled into taking cover when the calamity occurred, and regains her position of regal comfort at the highpoint of whichever body raises the biggest lump from below the covers.

And so another cold and bitter night outside passes with the slumbering warm and content creatures in the cabin asleep altogether in their bed until dawn begins to send its pale light through the double-paned gas-filled windows onto their still snuggled forms inside.

Daddy is the first to crack an eye open and peer out the first floor window next to the bed. “Best money ever spent,” he thinks to himself, “can’t imagine what it’d be like in here without good new windows.”

The cabin’s walls are foot thick logs cut over 200 hundred years ago and hauled with mules up from the woods to then be hand-hewn into shape, notched and stacked to build the humble cottage along the creek. Capped with a slate roof, quarried from nearby here in the Slate Belt of Eastern Pennsylvania, it’s a strong and sturdy and stubborn barrier against, and within, nature. With the added technology of modern insulated windows, the old locally harvested natural materials still keep it cool and dark in summer and warm and cozy all winter long.

The snow is falling lightly outside the windows. Again. How many days now?

Daddy, still sleepy, closes his eye and drifts off to sleep again. George stirs next to him, wriggling, needing to go out, but not wanting to wake up quite yet either. Evelyn begins to knead her claws into Daddy’s thigh, and meowing that it’s time for some fresh food in her bowl. She doesn’t care if there is still food there from yesterday. She must have fresh food, from the big tin by the kitchen door, delivered by Daddy, and she wants it now. Now.

Daddy, slightly annoyed, momentarily asserts his presumed dominance of the household, and shoves her coarsely off the bed as she lets out a loud protest. Everyone in the big bed stirs briefly and has a few more moments of precious sleep.

Less than a minute passes and Evelyn returns to continue her incessant nagging and kneading and meowing.

Daddy grudgingly relents and rises, grumbling and groaning with winter stiffness in his aching joints, sliding carefully out from under the covers so as not to disturb the warm, soft, pink, flannel-covered, precious creature he had been spooning so comfortably. George, instantly awake, bounds soundlessly to the backdoor in anticipation of the coming moment of boundless joy. Evelyn scampers to her perch high on the antique jelly cupboard and assumes her impatient pose before her snow white porcelain dish as she waits for the human’s offering of supplication to be placed before her.

Sliding open the door with one hand, the other on eager George’s collar, he reaches for the cable and snaps it onto George, who takes off with pure elation, enjoying to the fullest his release and bound for another release with its own kind of pleasure. Daddy smiles as he watches his joy at being set ‘loose’ once again to fly at full speed across the garden until he hits the end of the cable and finds his spot—that old fence post today—sniffs, does his duty, and then gleefully explores his limited range of freedom. Freedom! Daddy smiles at that thought.

‘It is good to be alive and beginning another day. Even if it is February,’ he thinks to himself.

Filling the coffee machine first with fragrant grounds and fresh spring water—his small act of defiance in taking care of his own needs before the demanding cat—he finally fetches her bowl, fills it, and places it before her. She commands a caress to her ears with a stare, gratefully accepts a good ear scritch, and then deigns to sniff at her food to see if it meets her requirements.

Her quiet crunching accompanies his soft padding slippered steps off to the bathroom to seek his own release, followed by a hot damp cloth to sleepy eyes and face and other cursory attempts at cleanliness and awakening.

The coffee finishes perking as he does his meager toilet routine and he is drawn like an addict, which he freely admits he is, to pour the black nectar into ‘his’ cup. Smelling the aroma, like a wine expert admiring the ‘nose’ and color of a great vintage, he trods to the fridge for the milk. Properly colored a deep caramel shade of tan, at last the first sip is taken and the warmth and life-giving liquid enters his grateful body.

Smiling to himself as he thinks these thoughts, he turns to gaze over at the barely distinguishable lump still under the covers of the bed. She is there. Sleeping quietly. He longs to hold her, to cherish her, but resists to savor the moment of wanting, and of having her there.

A deep sense of gratefulness fills him. Many were the years he’d spent in the cabin alone. Long and peaceful, and not really alone. He had his animals and his hobbies and his chores, things to do to fill his mind and his soul, and even to touch and caress and hold, but still alone. He lacked another person to share it all with, to share his bliss and his beauty, and his love with, to feel their body against his at night as they slept, or in the wild throes of passion, or in a brief hug upon reuniting upon coming home from an errand. That was missing, and missed.

Most times he pushed it out of his mind. Most times he had no use for it, told himself he didn’t, didn’t want it, too much bother, not worth it, he convinced himself over those decades, as year after year slid by, alone, here in the cabin in his heaven, his dream, his precious solitude, his peace on earth.

Yet at night sometimes, and often in winter, in February, it came to smother him again, the dread, the darkness, the despair, the hopelessness, the sense of loss and emptiness. The feeling he could not escape, the feeling he could not bear another second of, yet did, and then another, and another, until morning came and he faced another day.

In recent years it had returned full bore to assault him and keep him pinned down, fixed in place in inaction and failure, not knowing what to do to stop it, and often not caring to try. Yet a tiny spark, an infinitesimal spark of something, something like hope, or a dream, stayed alive, kept him alive.

“If it is meant to be. She will come. She will,” it said to him when its voice could be heard. “You will find her. She will find  you. When the time is right. Anything is possible. Everything is possible.”

Anything is possible. Anything. It became his mantra, his heartbeat. His dream and his hope. It kept him alive.

It is keeping me alive.

And someday she will be there, over there sleeping in my bed, in the morning as I drink my coffee. Here. In my cabin. With me, and George and Evelyn in Happy Hollow in the old log cabin along the creek.

She will come and I will not be alone. I will have her with me in my bed and in my life and we will fulfill each other. At last.

And this story will become real and not just a dream.

But today, the snow is falling. George warms the bed. Evelyn warms my lap. I sip my coffee at my desk writing. Content for now. Waiting patiently

It is still February.

Anything is possible.

One thought on “February

  1. I wrote this last year in mid February. Nothing much has changed. Depression still threatens relentlessly. Hope still lingers, often barely. Dreams still live on, clear and strong as ever. Time passes…if unbearably slowly at times. Spring will come…and then summer…

    Happy Hollow will bloom again in all its glory. I will return to my beloved Shangri La and George and I will walk there daily in solitude and in wonder and awe before its glory too. Even if I must do so alone.

    I will put one foot in front of the other and carry on. I will continue to pursue my dreams, to do what I can to make them become real. And find joy in whatever success I might achieve. Even if I must do so alone.

    And I will try not to think about or understand why that is so…for that way leads to debilitating suffering and pain…I know that all too well. Yet it remains my constant challenge and the great mystery of my life…to overcome, if not to solve. Even if I must do so alone.

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