dispiriting things

A dog howling in the middle of the day. A sheet of newspaper caught in the branches of a rose bush. A creek that has run dry. Broken glass on the footpath to the water’s edge. A trap laid for a mouse.

A front porch at night with no light left burning. A closed door at the top of the stairs. A nursery in the dark, with no child sleeping in the bed.

A hearth with no fire lit in it.

You have taken great care to choose the proper dress for an occasion at which you will meet someone you have long desired. You put a flower in your hair. It might be a wild daisy from your garden or a slender stem of lavender. You wait at the designated meeting place. You stand on the bridge looking out over the waterfall or in front of the shop down in the village square. You ask a woman passing by with a child in her arms to tell you please the time. It is terribly dispiriting to wait for such a long time.

A letter arrives from your mother who has been ill. It is difficult to recognize her handwriting. The loops of her script are small and tight, like she is holding the pen with a clenched fist. The news she sends is not only dispiriting. It sends you to your bed for many hours.

When you walk out to the garden in the early morning and the grass is wet and someone has left bits of trash, the plastic wrapper from a bar of chocolate, seeing that carelessness can be dispiriting. If the morning air is sweet enough and there is a pleasant breeze, the discovery of trash on the lawn can seem less dispiriting.

It is dispiriting to see the bitter cores of apples left on a plate after the fruit has been taken. The dry skins of onions. In the winter, after all the leaves have fallen from the trees and they are dry and brittle and brown, with no longer any hint of the reds and oranges and yellows that they once were. There is no trace of such colors left and the ground is hard and cold and the wind. The way the wind howls is dispiriting, even if you can remember that spring will again come.

The letters from your mother arrive less frequently. You wait for many weeks without hearing news.

Cold rain all day on New Year’s Eve.