Note: I took a break from this blog in order to document my journey across the US where I sang in all 48 lower states. You can read about my MelOdyssey here.
I easily could have worked from home, but the call for structure and a desire for a warm, isolated cubicle brought me in. Awaking in the dark, still not having figured out how to work my new alarm clock that will help me pretend it’s not winter with its gradually glowing light. Record colds in Portland are nothing like the ones across most of the country, but they are enough to disrupt our daily lives and kill a man. I put on an extra sweater, my soft cream hat, and my new Christmas scarf and walk to the bus as the sun begins to rise.
The bus turns and we pass the same dead lilac garden on the same route as all the other days, only this time it looks different. Half of it is covered in ice, yet no rain has fallen for days. A sprinkler break, perhaps? It’s as though someone took a fire hose to the small trees in the middle of the night. A woman gets out of her car to take a picture of it, and I long to do the same. I can’t remember the last time I took any photos, even though I keep my camera with me at all times, just in case.
Work was slow so I bundled back up an hour earlier than usual and walked down the hill, ignoring the two buses that passed; it was time to be in the sun. I took the long way down so I could revisit the icy lilacs – had they melted in the day’s light? Though it stayed below freezing, it was bright every time I left my cube to appreciate the big yellow thing in the sky, a rare sighting this time of year. As I rounded the bend and reached the bottom of the hill, I saw the trees still shone. An older man was there, too, appreciating the beauty of the cold.
I asked him if he knew what happened. He hadn’t considered my sprinkler-break theory, and attributed this wonderland to the simple fact that the sun never reached here, In his mind, the lilacs have been weighed down by ice this whole time (several days, if not weeks). That didn’t feel right to me; have I been passing this very spot while on the bus for days unnoticed? I can’t believe that to be the case. The man continues on the path, careful not to slip.
A woman comes by, walking her dog. I ask her if the lilacs will be OK. She reassures me that the lilacs will be just fine in the spring and I’m relieved. Too much death lately whether it be from Mother Nature or carelessness or whatever causes death. I take several pictures, walking carefully on the iced grass and dirt, shining in its sleekness. There are no sure steps in this grove, an isolated mystery right in front of me. Is this what happens when something is left in the dark, without warmth? It’s beautiful but cold.
I head out of the park and onto the sidewalk where the sun does shine – at least for today, perhaps even tomorrow. Then the rain comes back. Or maybe snow first, then the ice, until the sky falls as a typical Portland winter – grey, damp, wet – behaving as it should. When that happens, the lilacs will lose their weight and become as I assumed they always were, until I looked out the window of the bus this morning and actually noticed what was going on.