Reading the Handmaid’s Tale takes me to a deeper place in my mind (soul?), a place beyond to-do lists—the t-valve still needs changing; winter menu should be tweaked for the new schedule, is the young one too lonely in school?—to where my sense of self and my creativity sits. The writing makes me look deeper, but it also depresses me. So much physicality in a time when the physical is too intrusive. But I am a body and I must deal with that. “Annabel Has a Doll,” a song from the steampunk opera The Dolls of Albion, starts to play in my head. https://youtu.be/bD_zjjExqYg
The landscape is blanketed in white on today’s commute, an early heavy snow. The smooth open whiteness, as yet unmarred by sanding trucks or traffic cheers me. I take the long stair, my daily task, but I go at it gently.
I spent the 15 minutes that I waited for the bus kicking snow off the bus stop surround. Side walk? Does it have a proper name? The snow is heavy and wet. Some of it is compacted by the road ploughs (plows? I think that is the American spelling). It is a small workout.
I get to the top of the stairs out of breath as usual, with that little frizzling sparkle of panic that the air I draw in won’t be enough, but it soon fades. I wonder if the people I pass think I am some kind of weirdo because I am breathing like this.
Half the time, people don’t register as anything more than shapes moving past me on my commute as my to-do lists or other thoughts crowd my mind. Other times I see each face and I know each one has a life attached, a story, a battle, a list of their own, and I wonder what it is, what their stories are. Mine fills almost all my brain, and yet each of these many, many faces has the same thing going on. It’s overwhelming.
How does God keep track?
Maybe that is why people blank each other out. It is too much to think about.
But if we don’t think about it, people stop being people in our eyes, and that always ends badly.
The walks are slippery here. I try to step along the edges near the snowbank and on the frozen tire grids of the sidewalk ploughs, but it is still treacherous. A fall here could brain you. I fiddle with the things in my pockets.
This is my winter coat. Glossy paper comes to hand. I pull it out. Movie stub? No, Esso receipt. I give a wry smile. From the time when we had a car.
It was a decision, and an influential change in lifestyle. As I slip for the fourth time and almost go down, I am grateful. I wouldn’t want to be driving in this.
The salt man is at work with his little barrow of sidewalk salt. A labourer. I wonder if he knows he is saving lives. I wonder if he thinks about his work that way.
The snow is deep, but there is a narrow path where others have walked before. I could blaze my own trail, but then I would get snow up my ankles. Following the same path as everyone else is easier, but it’s slippery.
I meet a man at the corner. I stop to let him pass, but he stops too and we laugh.
“Which way are you going?” he asks.
“That way.” I point along the path behind him. He moves to the third option, the narrow path for crossing the road.
“I’ll get out of your way!” He smiles. He is older than me, and I think I should be the one to get out of his way, but I am she, and so not wanting to argue old courtesies, I thank him and step on. “It’s a one way street!” he laughs.
“It is!” I agree. Sometimes it seems we have only one option. Suddenly he is less blank to me.
The path ahead has been cleared. The going is easier, but I still turn an ankle hard on the piled up snow in a driveway. But after that, I can look up, and I realize that when the going is treacherous, my scope dwindles to my toes.
The snowbank here is cut clean and crisp, like icing on a professionally done cake. The even sparkling shape makes me happy. Further on, the edges are rounded, blown by the wind.
I wonder if I will dye my hair purple this year, for Halloween.
Today’s Quote: “Claim thine swords thou art warriors all;” -from “The Faerie King” by Dorothy Bentley.