Between cornice and crevasse
you have drifted
burying what hurts
in a rough sliding thunder
and frosting your back
Turn. Face the quick wind
and dogged sun.
Let their fervor sweep like wings
across your ridges,
like artists caught
in a gorgeous storm.
The sun is beginning to feel warm again, a sure sign of spring in Alaska. During the lengthening days, the deep snow is softening… and then freezing again each night. What was several feet of white fluff is now capped by a polished crust. Underneath, the snow has “rotted,” forming a loose, sugar-crumb layer. At the cooler ends of the day, we can scuttle about on top of a shiny white expanse, gleefully freed of snowshoes or skis… until we stray too close to a weak spot. Then we punch through to our knees or thighs, losing purchase in the slippery stuff below.
I find this an apt metaphor for my mood these days. I’m fine, until I’m not. And the moments of not being okay come suddenly, with the same gut-flinging, breath-stealing abruptness of falling through a floor.
On a walk last week, I seemed to punch through the crust with every other step. Weary and frustrated, I eventually sat slumped in the snow, and then startled myself by bursting into tears.
Gradually, I realized that all the crust-breaking had uncovered more than just my poor choice of route. Grief waited for me here. It was (past) time for me to acknowledge that our lives have been irretrievably changed by this COVID19 pandemic. Whatever “normal” has meant, as well as any hopes and plans for the forseeable future, have been lost in the shifting substrate of uncertainty.
Uncertainty is a flimsy, malleable place in which to work. Most of us find it disorienting and uncomfortable, or even — as the last weeks have shown — truly heartbreaking and scary. If there’s a way to skip this part of our journeys, I don’t know of it. But as I sat there, soggy and spent in the snow, I recognized the feel of grief’s sturdy hand, and what it offered.
When I lose my footing, grief is an ardent, if unpleasant companion. Like the sun or wind, grief isn’t interested in comfort, but is devoted — like an artist caught up in the act of creating — to the process of transformation. And like any force of nature, it won’t act in isolation. It requires my presence, and a willingness to face what I cannot know.
This is uncertainty’s other side: a vast, glittering expanse of possibility. As I sat in the bright and broken snow, grief in hand, I felt relief. Spring is coming, with its gorgeous mess, committed to sharing the task of becoming something new.