Reentry into American suburbia, if only for a week, was not the shock I expected. I visited for a weekend in November and felt unsure about English phrases as I rode the brakes on the toll road home; this time my voice slipped back to the place in my throat to where all the English sounds are made and I'm offer silent prayers of thanks as I speed through the automatic toll lanes. However, the sweater of my old life doesn't quite fit anymore, I can already tell. Not in a sweeping, "I've-outgrown-this" sense--if anything, I've shrunk--but in the way that you know a friend's sweater is your friend's and not yours--the sleeves are taut even though you bunch yours, the shoulder seams hit your blades in a weird spot and carry a strange weight, the collar is a little tight. I tend toward thinking that the time I spent in other cities and jobs and stages is somehow lost or unredeemed instead of viewing it as a time that was apportioned its exact worth--I dialed 1-800, I placed my order, I ripped off the tags and rolled around in the grass. In my longing for what was, I forget that "was" was once "is", and I occupied the moment as best I knew how--after all, aren't I trying now? To try to hop the wormhole would make the past less consecutive and constructive, not more. Nevertheless, trusting past Payton has proven difficult.
Can we acknowledge how much better we would've been or would've done while being kind to previous iterations of ourselves? Is there a way that regret can be propulsive, moving us toward what we won't or will do in the ever-onward march?
I needed snow; God knew I did. It gives you a chance to make a path and see your steps exactly as you laid them out, and then see them wiped away the next morning. The cold jolts our lungs, the white blinds our eyes, the newness of our world has us examining bushes as if we really knew the beauty they held. I saw fields on their own terms, not as a future quarter-acre servings of the American Dream. I walked on paths made inhospitable by the fierce neutrality of nature--don't you know that's where I walk? How dare you ice over? A snowfield makes you feel so insignificant and full of canyons and U-turns that you want to hide your face, but it's the canvas to your body brush, inviting you to soak your friend's sweater in sweat and vapor until it tightens up and fits again and makes you warm, expended, significant.