Anna McLoud Gibbs


It had started to snow and I put the kettle on to boil some water for tea while I put on my snow boots and a heavy winter coat. It felt like a snow specific for me; just a few nights before, I had stood next to my car after I parked in my driveway, and I had looked at the full moon, and I had looked at the stiff dead brown grass standing bravely in the blueish moonlight, and I had asked the moon, please, one more snow before you send the rain and mud and flowers. When people think snow, they think shoveling and slippery roads and annoyance but when I think snow, I think of the flakes and their sharp, perfect edges when they fall solo and then their softness when they clump together in feathery pig piles. And I think of Stranger in the Woods, the red cardinal backdropped by the brightness of white, and these small clips of precipitation that fit on an eyelash and yet remain our greatest foe in the winter.

So when the flakes started falling fat, I appreciated this gesture by the moon, and I pulled on my boots, and I turned off the kettle because I had miscalculated and I had finished getting ready to go outside much before the hot water had boiled, and besides, my tea would have gotten cold.

I didn’t need to go far; I just walked into the backyard and along a narrow path towards a narrow creek a hundred feet from the house. I didn’t know the creek was there because it’s a new house and I hadn’t explored much; I also couldn’t hear the creek. It wasn’t frozen though. It was just a quiet creek. Sheets of ice held their arms out over the quiet creek, an umbrella for the water, and a cradle for the falling snow.

It had rained the night before, and then it had frozen, and now it was snowing, so the ground looked like this: solidified mud, ice sheets, feathery snow. The snow looked like dandelion fluff, except whiter, like the milky glue inside the milkweed stems, except fluffier, like dandelion fluff. Beside the creek was a small bare tree about two inches in diameter; in the winter these trees look like tall abandoned walking sticks; and a thin vine had spiraled around the walking stick upwards and licked into the bark. An ugly laceration, blackened and pus leaking out, and I notice that the vine has burrowed inside the bark in parts, and the vine looked dainty where it rested on top of the bark, but here, at this laceration, the vine was a parasite, or a cancer, covered in black skin. Honestly you could have told me the vine was part of the little tree; it looked similar enough. Parasite, or cancer. Dependency, either way. I’m not sure who will win that fight.

Closer to the water, I didn’t find a cardinal but I found dozens of red berries, frozen, floating upon thin branches like paper lanterns. When I stood below them and looked up I felt like I was at a festival. These are the only color sources out here, except, of course, the black laceration and the white snow. My lashes were holding ten flakes each, and the flakes were all shaking hands, or cuddling, and it’s a light burden.

When I walk back inside, I turn on the kettle before I take off my boots and the water is boiling by the time I’ve undressed into my indoor state. Now my cheeks are red like the berries, and my fingers are white like the snow, and I wonder where my laceration is, and I wish I could spot all these types of dependency as easily as pushing on skin and seeing it. I decide to use two tea bags, black and peach, and as I make my tea I watch the snow fall outside, like flowers now.