There was a storm on the Pacific coast last week. I saw no pictures, no news reports. I heard only the promise of it on the radio: 60-80 MPH winds, heavy rains. My husband was traveling, hours away in the sun and heat of Florida. I lay in my bed and imagined the waves gathering, the wind driving, the sound of air rushing across old window panes. Once, he and I had rented the tiniest cabin, perched on the edge of a sea cliff. We arrived in the dark, found our way around the strange rooms, stood at the windows and stared at our reflections against the pitch-black night. In the morning we came out of the bedroom eager to see the view, but steam had gathered, fogged the windows from bottom to top, making us blind as the night before. The room glowed with white light; sea water ran in tiny droplets between the window panes. We made coffee, curled in blankets, listened to the pound of waves we couldn't see.
I cannot escape no matter how I try. When my husband and I go for our weekly date at a local restaurant, the world plays on competing TVs: FOX news on the left, a cable channel on the right. At the table next to us, the group talks politics. The room spins with the echo of Cain's lament. How strange it is, we say, that everyone feels like the outsiders, that all of us feel disenfranchised, mistreated, overlooked. As if we've reached the pinnacle of individualism all at once.
I have always learned best in counterpoint: I know more of what I don't want to be than what I do. Last week a stray dog came on the property and terrorized our ducks. We raced out the door to chase him off, running through the muddy yard and up on to the pasture in our socks, too anxious to stop for anything like shoes. The dog, young, white, like a pale coyote, thought it was a game, diving and feinting, circling us and barking while we reached for him, tried to corral the panicked ducks. When the ducks were in, he found a stray chicken, sent her squawking into a tree in a tumble of feathers. I was angry, panting. I grabbed a limb that had fallen to the ground, waited for him to run by, landed a hard blow across his back, his hindquarters. I'd have landed more, but he ran, disappearing down the driveway, a streak of white on the road. That night, alone, I remembered the coldness that came over me, the single-minded determination to protect my own. It was appropriate then. But the next day I walked by the limb laying on the pasture where I had dropped it and I couldn't look at it. We are always that close. We are always that close, is what I thought.
Spring is coming. In the mornings, the Varied Thrush carry on their slow conversations from within the woods. One long note followed by a rest, then the long return call from across the field coming back. When I carry buckets of water up the hill each day, I stop at the corner of the duck house and wait, listening for as long as the cold air, the weight of the buckets, the press of the to-do list, will let me. One note sounds, then one note. It is like a symphony, stretched out, reaching. The kind of song the world must make between the heaving and the shaking.