Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
— Scottish folk song
The ground is white.
It is luminous as a sheet drying on the line, the pockets of shadow cyanotic.
The driveway shows through in charcoal patches, and the dog and I follow them like stepping stones.
How hot the macadam was in July!—tipping the rainwater into the sewer grates noisily. January has no movement, except for the tall trees that turn their backs against the merciless wind. Their branches fall like tears into the yards.
The huge old furnace has failed four times this winter. The silence wakes us at 5. The room is cold. The technicians descend the cellar steps with their tools. Perhaps they ask it to take deep breaths as they listen for congestion. It is being kept alive by the short-term measures and prescriptions that mark the end of life.
The cat sleeps on the floor grate anyway—the only one of us with faith.
But the absence of holidays is delicious—no Santa, no Jesus, no gourds. The pointlessness of the month is perhaps its only virtue: January is not a team player. It is a hangover, drawn out until Valentine's Day. It is all fact—unmitigating, disapproving as an ex-lover, hard on the paint.
The wood is stacked safely in the barn, but the trip over ice is so long—so far away!—in the 4:30 darkness. The birdless sky, the ghostly swinging of the feeders where they had evidently been, the furniture we didn't bother to cover this fall, the headless bird baths and upside-down jardinieres are postapocalyptic. Under half a foot of snow, the hammock frame is shipwrecked on the lawn.
Outside the kitchen window, the grapevine frozen under the downspout looks like hand-blown glass, and the trigonometry of the frost is lyrical.
The driver of the big street plow waves at the dog and me as we scurry home.