It’s seven-thirty in the morning, snowing again, and the oak trees are solid white now. I’m sitting in my office window looking out at the icy, snowy street and the squirrels scampering about the island, digging in the snow, darting up a trunk.
And there are crows out there — big black crows. I put some bird seed in the street between my yard and the island a few days ago, and they are still pecking around on it. I watch one walk toward my house, and I laugh out loud.
Have you ever watched a crow walk? Her feet go down one in front of the other, she sways back and forth, and in her tight-fitting sleek feathered sheath, it looks like she is swinging her hips, if she has any hips. It’s what we used to call “prissing.”
I remember back in junior high, upon seeing a girl walk down the hall, making a point to priss, to swing her hips as wide as she could, my friends and I would say while looking down our noses at her, “Shake it, honey, but don’t break it, it took nine months to make it.”
Then, I guess, the opportunity being right, we’d do it, too.
I am sitting here in my burgundy leather desk chair, elbow on the armrest, chin on fist, looking out the window at the first snowfall of 2011. My house is behind an island that has five oak trees and a lamppost on it, so my immediate view is of an all-white ground and street, except for the tracks of two cars — the paperman and a mom delivering her daughter to go sledding with the girls across the street — and the tall barren trees.
I’m reminded of coloring books back in the 1950s, the cheap tablet paper and an outline of people or animals or scenes to color. A popular thing to do from time to time was to outline each part of an object with a different-colored crayon and then lightly fill in with that same red or blue or green. I remember bearing down hard to leave some waxy color against the black lines, just enough above each line to show up.
That’s exactly what the branches of the five oaks look like. Someone has taken a white Crayola and lined each one, white following the shape of each brown line, continuing on each connecting smaller branch, all the way up the tree.
The hours and days are pushing by. The new year came, we’re four days into it, and I’m already lagging behind. It feels as though I have grabbed onto my own body’s shirt front and am pulling myself along to try and keep up.
I see from my upstairs office window how time is rolling over itself, as I look at the dogwood tree, now the height of my sill, empty except for shiny red Christmas berries that are fast changing into balls that will soon become blossoms. The top of the tree is already going to balls — tiny and teardrop-shaped, with pale green on the bottom side and alizarin crimson on the top half, with seams shaped like a cross and dusted with white. It seems so soon for this to be happening. The blossoms won’t come for another month or two.
Unlike the fast-progressing dogwood, I am behind the curve. I normally never get sick, yet here I am, entering a new year with chest congestion and bronchitis that turn into an ear infection. I can’t hear, I can’t breathe, I can’t think, I can’t keep up. All I do is cough. I need to be over this by tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I cling to the hope that I see on the tree below me. I know that inside the crimson-covered ball, there is a promise of pure white silk, and it will unfurl into fresh life, with only a reminder of hard times brought forward in its blood-stained tips.
But what everybody sees is the white flower.