The temperature rose to 31 degrees today. Tomorrow is supposed to be ten degrees warmer — the first day of temps above freezing since sometime in February. Would you be surprised to know I was disappointed when I heard the temperature was going to jump up? I did feel that way, but that was about a week ago, before I got the flu.
Now, after five full days lying in bed staring at the spruce-wood ceiling and another day wobbling around town to get myself a shower and some groceries, I say bring on the spring. I do know there are things I’ve experienced because I got sick that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. For example, you’d be impressed by how many different shapes a mind can pull out of the grain and knotholes of some smooth-planed spruce boards. Assisted by a slight fever, I found the full cast of Hey, Diddle, Diddle living in the ceiling, including the cow, the moon, the dish and the spoon. But mostly I found every imaginable shape of squid. Whatever kind of spruce this is, the grain leans decidedly toward squid with knots for eyes.
When I felt well enough to be upright, I discovered the pleasure of sitting quietly in the rocking chair very early in the morning, watching the light layer itself through a long sunrise — violet, then blue, then blushing before the sun bleaches the sky with streaks of bright and gray. Far across the field and beyond the trees, the lights of the city string a slender line from east to west. They fade with the sky as the sun comes up.
Sick or not, confined or not, I’ve experienced something wholly new almost every day I’ve been here — and there’s been wonder in all of it. But then someone texts me from home and says, “It’s going to be 80 degrees here this weekend.” Stewart sends a photo of my apple tree wearing pink blossoms and new green leaves. And I have to say I’m okay with the idea of pulling myself together and heading south again next week.
During the worst of the flu, I started to feel I had failed at whatever I came here for. So many good intentions and there I was staring at the ceiling, feverish and blank. Then I had to ask how I could fail at something when I didn’t have a goal in the first place. Wasn’t the idea simply to be here because I wanted to experience Fairbanks in winter? Mostly that, yes, but when I looked more closely I found something else in all that squid.
I have perhaps wanted this time to build a bridge across a rut at home: I recently gave up a kind of work I’ve been doing for a very long time and, frankly, I have no idea what’s best for me to do next. I may have been hoping all this changed scenery would shift the scrim in my brain enough to reveal an answer.
But I still don’t know.
I recently heard someone mention a woman who has a job searching the heavens all day for asteroids. That’s a job I never thought of. I’m not qualified for asteroids, but it made me wonder what I might not be thinking of that I could do.
Also, I remember that once when we were talking about relationships my Aunt Joy said to me, “You know, you can’t try on every shoe in the store.” She was trying to tell me to pick a good person and get on with it. But I wondered, isn’t that what the shoe store is for? I tried on pretty much every kind of relationship shoe that looked interesting, including ridiculous styles in which I could not possibly walk, for years and years until my life slipped into a shape I could wear for a thousand miles.
Why should it be any different when it comes to finding the right kind of work? I assume I’ll keep trying stuff on until I find what fits — or I’ll keep learning more about what doesn’t. Meanwhile, there are three moose standing in the driveway, which is another thing I’ve never seen before. That’s not nothing.