This morning everyone on Facebook is talking only of David Bowie, who died yesterday. I’ve yet to see people so much of one mind before. His life of public self-reinvention means there will be mourners for each of his many, glamorous, sometimes androgynous selves.
I loved David Bowie because you knew if it was OK for him to be David Bowie it was just fine to be yourself
— shut up, mike (@shutupmikeginn) January 11, 2016
Writing anything more than tweets is still hard for me. It did not get easier last year, even with the deadline regular blog posts. It was only a resolution I had made. By the end of the year I was digging up and revising old things, just to meet the deadline, or miss it by a day. This year seems to have started without me; I’ve barely sat down to write.
My corner of Westchester is tamed and tended but craggy with low, tree-hairy hills. Between those bristling prominences are noisy valleys of highway or silent reservoirs that slake the thirst of New York City, downstream. Jagged rocks the size of houses lurk in the forest and make appearances shouldering the roads. The trees are bare because it’s January, though we’ve yet to have any of the deep cold of last year. I think the trees here are mostly oak and maple and beech, but there are also black birches and shagbark hickory and sycamore. There are eastern pines and hemlocks, and a kind of spruce I’m not sure about. If I can name some of the trees, I feel like I should name the boulders and geologic forces that put them there, but I can’t.
It is the same way with the sky.
I like the sky. I know it. I see it every day. I look at what color it is. Sometimes it is prison gray. Other times it is bright blue. I look at the sky and notice the sunlight, or the clouds. I know the dotty tide of clouds that signal a change in weather, and recognize the looming of a storm cloud. But I don’t know the names of clouds, just like I don’t know the rocks.
I’ve wasted much of my adulthood not knowing clouds and being ignorant about rocks. I can tell the downy from the red-bellied woodpeckers in my yard, and the eastern red cedar from a hemlock tree, but all last year I took pictures of clouds and never once in 77 Tumblr posts did I find out what sort of clouds they were.
I drive from the new house to the new barn almost every day, winding through the reservoirs. Some of the shallower, more protected corners of the water are frozen over, so the mute swans have congregated in flocks in still-open waters. They are big and white and more likely to be floating than flapping their great wings and rising into flight. From the distance of the road, they look harmless and decorative as marshmallows floating in the gray-black cocoa water. The waters are all theirs. The state lists them as an invasive species.
On the coldest mornings, the sun is brilliant in the east, illuminating the trees still white with frost and enticing the open water to expel a layer of mist rising like flames of fog. I feel connected to my past by a strong, thin line on a map, and look forward to the friendly mist of calm of the new barn.
I like the new barn. I am making friends. I am learning a lot. I am one of the newer clients and the most inexperienced dressage rider. I timidly contact the barn manager about scheduling changes, apologizing for ordinary requests so much that I embarrass myself. I still feel like I’m in other people’s way when I ride in the ring. My horse stumbled and almost face-planted one day and I felt like I scared everyone. Saturday I got bucked off my young horse, about whose freshness I had been careless; though I was unhurt, as I walked across the ring to get the naughty gelding from the spot where he halted square, reins wrapped around his neck, looking astonished and guilty, I have never more keenly felt my awkward new kid status.
When I got home, I found my husband on the driveway with the dogs. I parked and joined them. We walked around the yard talking and thinking about future plans. All of Mrs.Gardenwinkle’s original landscaping is now 30 years old and mature. Stopping by the three large evergreens by the driveway, we mulled over the relative merits of planting more evergreens near the property line. I looked up into the tree closest to me, a cedar, and could see a length of broken Christmas lights, at least ten feet up. I stopped listening to my husband and traced the broken strands of lights all the way around the tree.
The next day when the rain stopped we went out to walk the dogs and right when we got back in the house the sky opened up with an onslaught of heavy rain flowed by hail. The light-filled kitchen was lit a surreal green. Our youngest came downstairs, uncharacteristically excited to get us outside to look at the sky. We followed, and saw a bright rainbow arced over the woods below our house, and behind us, the sun, setting in a now-clear royal blue sky.
I came in and got ready to take a shower. Checking Facebook, I saw that my old Seattle friends were all reacting to some sort of football kick. My new barn friends were posting their shots of the rainbow.