this chill

The week has been long, dreary. I find myself, in the rare moments of stillness, staring out windows onto gray, wet landscapes. At home, at my desk, the Japanese maple tree is full now, and its branches and leaves frame my view of the gray street, gray sidewalk, gray highway below. In my office, I look out just past the gray parking lot to the buildings that rise up from the river - itself a ribbon of gray. I dream of acres of gray asphalt - slick from relentless rains. 

Colder, too. As if the sweet taste of summer - the bright sun, the heat, the profusion of blossoms - proved too much to bear, and we retreated, frightened by what the heat might make us do. 

My routines are largely the same. I make a few adjustments to accommodate my work, my various personal obligations and errands, but the large arc of my day remains intact. For the time, simpler. Fewer distractions. 

M. tells me a story of an uncle he had never met. His father’s oldest brother, who had served in World War II, who was in Germany at the end of it. Who stood among piles of the dead. 

How back at home, later, in his small town in upstate New York, he fell in love with a woman his family would not approve and so they met in secret, over years. Until they were driving back together from a restaurant one night. Until the car crash that killed her. Another death to which he bore silent witness. “He was never the same after that,” the story goes. He died, not long after. He was 47. 

I tell this to my friend and am overwhelmed by the sadness of it - this short, sad life. She says: Another way to look at it is even despite his family’s opinion, he was able to have this love for the time that he had it. 

I would like to say that brings some comfort, but I can’t stop staring at the ends of things. 

Back at the beginning, in the early years of M. and me - before we imagined it would be possible to have a life together - he would say of us: the end built into the beginning, a snake devouring its own tail. 

Later, I told him: but you misread the symbol. It means eternity. It means life. Rebirth. 

It is the same, of course - cyclical. We are always beginning and ending. It matters, I think, where you choose to look at it. 

The irises are in bloom. The columbine flowers, their pinks and blues. There are tight buds on the peonies, waiting to burst forth, exuberant. And yet, this chill.