It’s a slow climb out of her winter blues, made trickier by snow-slippery weeks with unbroken grey skies. The clouds hide the sun and the hour. Coffee mugs with dried dribbles, lining the sink, accuse her of laziness. The projects of an optimistic January, half-finished, have found bottom shelves, yet still they seem to eye her as she comes and goes.
“We might cheer you,” they suggest. Trails of yellow yarn, scraps of calico papers. Glue sticks, pinking sheers. Her fingers have found the projects in the twilight of too many evenings, then pushed them away. It takes a sense of purpose and a heart for whimsy, she concludes again and again, to make creativity happen.
Magazines lean together in a basket by the sofa, each with dog ears raised as she musters the energy, once a week, to drag the vacuum through the rooms. Recipes that are too rich, too complicated. Happy-go-lucky bits about Holly Golightly fashion. Surely if the color turquoise can bounce forward into another spring, she can buck up until all the snow has melted and the fields are stubbly with grass.
If she were a robin, she would already be making her new nest. The geese were even now lighting on the river banks, the squirrel pausing on the stone wall outside the garden with an air of satisfaction. The weatherman said last night that another wintery mix was on the way, but she doubts it would worry the animals. The squirrel in particular would fall back on the wall, crossing his fat legs and putting his little mitt behind his head as he squinted up into the trees.
“Thanks for the gloom report,” he’d say. His voice would be thick and peanut buttery. In the woods, they would call him a cad, because woodland animals are unapologetically Victorian. “Still, Lady Sunshine, why don’t you go back inside and tidy yourself up a bit? You wouldn’t be too bad looking if you got those roots touched up and burned that sweater.”
As she made her way back over the lawn, hugging herself and keeping her face low, he would call out, “Don’t be like that, love. You should just know that sweater is a suicide shroud waiting to happen. Where’d you get that, anyway? The Salvation Army of Darkness?”
His chuckles – for squirrels do chuckle, and sometimes guffaw – would cause the birds to take note. They would shrug their wings as she closed herself back inside the house.
If she were a bear lumbering out of sleep, her burning stomach would cry that to live was the thing. She would heed the hunger. Paws to the cold earth, her nose would rise into the morning, breathing in unforgotten blood scent. The tender chive would be crushed in her wake, a raw perfume to kitchen the woodsy air and quicken her lust. When she rose up from behind the garden wall, her snoot thrust out toward the squirrel, he’d almost shit himself trying to get up the tree. Then she would wander back into the woods, the thick folds of herself moving like a determined sofa plushy that had found the will to leave home.
The sarcastic crow would watch her from high above, laughing at her prank, then take off to bait the squirrel. Their shiny eyes would peer into the treetop nest and he would pretend to be sleeping but they would see his heavy breathing.
From the shadows of a ragged bank, shredded by tree roots, cobbled together with ancient stone, an old grey fox would call out to her as she passed. “You’ve been here before.” It would not shy into the vines when she turned to give it her dark, enigmatic glance.
Rather, the fox would poke its nose out into a strand of breaking light, and say, “So you’re back, then, are you? Well, I figured you’d come out of it again. You always do.”
The thing, she figures, is to be like the bear.