Change, Outdoors, Things I Can

21. Things I Can Unravel: Equanimity

We all have an old knot in the heart we wish to loosen and untie.

– Michael Ondaatje, The Cat’s Table

The sun rides in on the back of a fierce wind. Even though the equinox is just days from now, this taste of spring will slip away again tomorrow. Thank goodness. Winter is much safer.

The inevitability of change is worrisome. Buds unfurl and something in us pushes open. That something undoubtedly lacks the social grace to wait for an invitation. Who knows what will shatter? What will bruise? All of this is in the service of “growth.” What seems so lovely when talking garden metaphors is brutal when ripping old scar tissue to realign poorly set bones. It’s all a matter of location and scope, and so much is out of our hands.

I step out onto the scoured mud of the battlefield. The gusts whip through my hair. They bend the dog’s leash into a bow that moans like a cello string. I did not expect this violence in the air. We walk anyway, all 5 1/2 miles of swamp and field, in the last of winter’s glare. The dog leaps after grasshoppers, burying her nose in crackling grass.

With every step into relentless headwinds, I make my plans, rehearse my lines, catalog the tasks undone. Each thought is a scrap of debris stuck to the walls of my skull. Eventually, I remember to let the rushing air scrub the hull clean. I have to remember this over and over again.

The dog trots ahead, snuffles in damp leaves, falls back, prances up onto a berm. With one a paw raised, she surveys the thrashing field, alert for predator or prey in the brush. Down in the low wet, peepers sing and sing.

The sun creeps across the celestial equator. Under the vast and rippled blue, I walk blind into the next churning eddy. My skin thrills at the prying insistence of those gusts. Light snakes in under collar, hairline, wrist.

I am not ready for what’s coming.

I stride towards it anyway.

I gulp it down.

I howl back in its face.

Poetry

Lunar Equinox

It is frost now, still
faltering between
chill blue knife and furred limb.

Moon meets sun in a garden of stars,
all visible in half-night. A red-tailed fox
skies across gunmetal dawn
feet never touching
the ground. Babies begin
in groaning belly
of robin, raccoon. A squirrel
squatting on the wrist of a high vine
scratches at the shell of last year’s seed. The bare end
of provisions before the next harvest means lean times
for a merciless brood.

The yield may suffice.
It may not.
The way to survive is to live as if both are true
at all times.

Remember: the equinox lasts
a single night. Each of us is on one side or the other
even if the lifting foot is only just clearing the line
even if the bottomless blue still saps any recollection
of fertility. By a hair each day, darkness falls away.
The crack in the ellipse
narrows, the coin tilts on its axis and slips
through. The first moon

of spring is a fat dubloon winging
across the frosted miles, casting off
as it turns the full gleam from the sun. It is only when you stand
just so and gaze just there that you can gauge its trajectory
and lift out your shirt
to collect what spills
over, such riches
only last through twilight and by dawn
you will be blind
again.