The snow is melting in erratic stages on the terraced land that leads down to the lake. A plastic purple egg is poking out beneath the overgrown Bonsai tree. It’s a colorful reminder of the past year, one of the three missing Easter eggs from last year’s hunt.
I have been walking on crutches for six weeks and find myself only noticing small things that are close but always out of reach. Past the Bonsai on the other side of the lake a pup tent sits embedded into the ice. I’ve noticed the ice fishing in past years as an aside to life on the lake in the winter but this year, from my window seat, I watch the comings and goings of the pup tent owner like I’m watching a child play with a dollhouse. The tiny figurines of other distant fishermen dotted across my visible landscape conjure up ideas about everything in life I feel I must urgently attend to but cannot.
The torn square on a comforter that needs a few stitches, pine needles from Christmas still trapped beneath a radiator, a small strip of missing grout inside the shower and a thin layer of dust on the venetian blind. Suddenly all these seemingly little things need my immediate attention. I tell myself that when I can walk again I will take care of these items and more. No stone will be left unturned.
As I imagine the arrival of spring I picture the garden blooming as never before under my thumb. The house and decks are freshly painted. The dock that has been leaning on a broken piling since we moved in will be hoisted upright and repaired under the sheer strength of my arms built up from weeks of using crutches. New oars and bushings will be set into the rowboat that will cease to rest upside down, killing the same patch of grass over and over again. The kitchen cabinets and closets will all be sorted out and the basement that I have not stepped a foot into since the middle of January will have a place for everything and everything in its place.
It’s easy to imagine the care and maintenance of your life when you no longer have the mobility to move through it the way you have become accustomed to. I am not so naïve to believe that inventories that pile up while I am recovering will still be important when my attention shifts back to work, commuting, grocery shopping and laundry. What strikes me most now is the little things that go unnoticed in the average day but become magnified when you can’t even make dinner easily. I have cooked a few times these past two months but the effort always left me drained, like getting up the steps into the car has exhausted me before we even pull away from the curb. I stare up the steps leading down to my house and remember the effortless stride I had used each morning to get the newspaper in the driveway. Now I lie in bed and think about the paper and how nice it might be to read it if someone was kind enough to bring it to me. Rob always does, along with a cup of hot tea.
The second year of our marriage we had moved into a railroad flat on the Hudson River that sat opposite from the Palisades. We had a neighbor named Mary who lived across the hall from us who was retired and didn’t drive. Each time the weather threatened snow she wailed, “Ohhh, I hope it don’t snow!”
Her lament of the weather always surprised us because she had nowhere to go or drive to. It didn’t seem to impact her life to any degree. But now, housebound for the better part of this winter, I understand what Mary must have felt like each time it snowed. The snow prevents even the possibility of going somewhere, anywhere.
In my time home, often alone, I have read eight novels. I also re-watched Anne of Green Gables. When Anne says “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes,” I laugh about how silly she sounds. Even if you haven’t seen it or read it before, you know everything will turn out fine. In my moments of despair, and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve had a few this winter, I have felt like Anne. My family smiles and reminds me of how silly I sound. They remind me that this is not a permanent condition, the weather is awful anyway and for heaven’s sake, take this time to relax and restore my health. Just as the snow and ice will eventually melt and my foot will eventually heal, all details take care of themselves.