Begin here. It is raining. I watch a maple one street over through my back window, towering over the houses and yards, south-east of me, south-east of the empty space where my maple had stood until last fall. The pale May green against the sky, today’s sky not the blue that makes the green glow bright, but a white-gray, like smoke, like a diluted wash of watercolour. The maple crown itself moves like water, like one huge muscular wave, but also each branch and twig and leaf creating its own slight ripples. This maple is now my anchor every morning, this particular magnet of green. A thought clenches in my chest: what about when this maple comes down one day? I don’t want to look at this thought right now. I nod to it and hurry briskly by, pretending I have somewhere urgent to be.
Three pots of herbs sit in cheap yellow plastic pots on the windowsill: rosemary, lemon thyme, parsley. A couple of weeks ago, the parsley leaves clung to the window like hands pressed against the screen, peering out, so ready. Today, the leaves droop. This unsettled weather, the late freeze last week – the parsley no longer looks hopeful for release.
The metal rod that cranks open the awning over the back steps bangs hard against the brick of the house. I hear faint music from the kitchen, the rustle of pages turning from the boys’ bedroom, steps creaking the floorboards in the hall.
I’m on my second thermos of tea this morning, warding off the rain and wind with spice: cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, whatever else dresses up my black tea in brighter colours.
I’ll head out for a walk with my husband soon, out into the weather, in grey raincoat and deep red scarf. That scarf that I started wearing at forty, when I was grieving what felt like the end of youth, when I was tangled up in longing and hurt and melancholy. That red gave me power, a power that now feels owned, not borrowed, that I’ve learned I had been wearing all along. I’m stronger than I was then, clearer in my speech, taking better care of heart and body and mind.
When I woke during the night I thought about leaning into darkness. I often close my eyes when I walk in the dark, and when I open them, the faintest light can become bright enough to navigate by. No lamp, no flashlight, no fire – those blind the eyes to what is already visible. No-one wants the darkness when it falls, but we are grateful on the other side to have learned the skill to move through it.
I’ve been participating in free online morning writing sessions with Firefly Creative Writing in Toronto (such lovely people!) three mornings a week through May. These have been moments of clarity and quiet in a time that has often felt crowded and murky now that everyone is always at home. A brief prompt, then silent writing for twenty minutes, then a poem to close. Today’s prompt was “Begin here. It is raining”, out of a choice of first lines from several other books. I found out at the end that this one was from May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude. We were also asked to include a colour we had chosen at the start. Mine was “deep red”, from someone else’s suggestion in the chat screen. And from my still-going-strong daily email writing group I also dropped in today’s word: watercolour.