what i do with myself


October feels like returning home from a long and tiring trip. Home again to writing, early mornings in the dim little room next to the stairs, view of the woodpile. Cup after cup of tea, laundry humming in the dryer, garden slowly dying outside, to-do lists stacking like cordwood in my journal, breath prayers to keep it all from toppling. // In the morning, cold, my hands ache and the chickens’ feet are mottled red. Summer’s banishment was swift and I wonder about winter, feel the presence of it looming heavy, brittle, just out of sight. More wool socks, I think, another pair of waterproof gloves. Soon I’ll be breaking ice on the water buckets, scurrying to get back inside, my glasses fogging up when I cross the threshold. // France lives nine hours ahead. We text from our beds: her waking, me settling in for sleep, and again at midday, when she says goodnight. The afternoons are the loneliest. // At dinner we talk about the justice of various world economic systems - pick your poison, they all need to be vigilantly humanized - and wonder how to be free and just within our own. I want this in my bones. // I clean the pantry, scrub away the trail of some little creature who came looking for warmth and a meal; my husband lays a trap, rightly so, but I wipe peppermint oil on the shelves and secretly hope it will be deterrent enough. // The youngest discovers 70’s folk music and it plays all afternoon, I make bread out of buckwheat and sunflower seeds. The hippies were right about everything, we say, and laugh. // Someone asks me what I’m going to do with myself now, empty nest and all. Love, tend, grow. There is no economic system for that, it has to be carved belligerently from the one you inherited. // Once, many years ago, we pulled up an old log in the forest and under it curled a clutch of newborn mice, fat commas shuddering in the naked air, their flesh translucent and rose brown, their unopened eyes a tiny violet gem swelling beneath the skin.