© 2017 by Lauren Slater. 

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February 8, 2017

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Swallowing Sharp

January 2, 2018

We are in the middle of a cold snap. The temperatures fall below zero in the night and during the day come up to five, maybe seven degrees. Icicles hang from the eves of the house and frigid wind finds its way around the expensive, insulated windows I paid so much money for. Downstairs the floors are all porcelain tile which feels freezing on my bare feet and the ponies have ice woven into their manes and tails. When you step on the snow it cracks and buckles, beneath a sheet of ice that formed when the rains came weeks and weeks ago.


We have passed the solstice now, the shortest day of the year, and, finally, are leaning toward the light, although it doesn't feel that way. By February, which is a month away, we should be able to notice that each day is just a moment or so longer, the sun taking more time to set. There may be nothing more beautiful than a winter sky, the pure blue enamel painted with pink streaks, the air purified by the sub zero temperatures so at night you can see the chrome colored stars in their sockets and the rough, rocky moon, its caves and caverns visible from where I stand, its hollows.


I dislike the winter but as I age I recognize that there is less and less I have the luxury of losing. I can burrow down in blankets with a good book and wait out the winter months but, really, I don't have that many more winters in my life so maybe it makes more sense to welcome the cold and all that comes with it, the intense quiet of a blizzard when shredded snow tumbles from ripped, rent clouds and snuffs out shapes and sounds, the taste of an icicle, putting pureness in your mouth and sucking. Where does it go, that thing called time, and why does it accelerate as you age, as your bones become brittle and the tightness in your chest feels scary? Last night my dog awoke, as he often does, at 3 or 4 am, needing to go for a walk. I padded downstairs and put on my parka, my fleece lined gloves, my hat, my scarf, grabbing the flashlight as I snapped his leash to his collar. I opened the front door and the cold came at me full force, my lungs singeing, my skin turning instantly dry and cracked. We went into the night then, past the ponies' stalls and trudging up hill, my breath beginning to wheeze from the effort. The hill was small and yet it tired me, because the cold made it hard to breathe and because I was still sleepy and because I need to lose weight and because I am almost 55, the precise midpoint of my 5th decade, dangling there as my health declines and the winters become harder to bear. I watched my puppy pee, liquid gold boring a hole through the snow and steaming. When we finally came back inside the house felt deliciously warm, a hand around my heart. I went back to bed, the puppy too, draped across my toes and snoring slightly. Just as I was dropping off the cliff of consciousness I felt a slicing pain between my ribs, where the pump hangs, my own marbled in fat. I froze, so to speak. The pain radiated down my arm and I thought that this could be my moment, my last. I turned out to be wrong. Whatever it was wafted away and my heart resumed its rhythm but one of these days, one of these times, one of these ticks and tocks will in fact come to claim me, to undress me, my body going the way of the wind until all that is left is some soot and some pebbles and the I that was I no longer. We live in the category called Human Being. When we die we shift categories and become something other, some soil, perhaps, some dung; I don't know. I can only be certain of the fact that it will happen. I can only be sure of the fact that time passes and the seasons too and I must suck all the sweetness out of whatever comes my way. I must live with intensity, with a driven point of purpose that has as its goal nothing more than being. The wind whips. See, sweetie, how the snow swirls around that tree? See how red our noses get when we come in from play? I miss my babies, all grown up and gone. The winter is long and whenever I see them, my babies, my grown up kids, I hug them hard, bone against bone, while all around us the snow comes down like stars and the plummeting temperature makes a sound as it falls, a trumbone, a wet finger circling the rim of a wine glass.. Yes, there is beauty here. And there too. Yes, I will go naked into the drifts of ash and white. Yes, I will accept my mandate, my snowy season. You can find me past midnight, walking my dog in the snow covered fields, my head tilted up, my tongue thrust out, catching crystals, swallowing sharp.



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