14. Winter

I swear I will surface soon and find the levity we all so dearly need at this point. I just have a little more work to do before I get there. But I want to say this… despite the morose tone, I am buoyed daily by the love and support you have all shown. I know that I am absolutely where I am meant to be at this moment in time. I know also that I absolutely would not be here if it weren’t for all of you. It is head-to-the-ground humbling.

There are days when I wrangle thousands of words onto a page and then look back over it and surmise it’s all crap, that I must be delusional for coming here. But then I remember you, and the time you take the time to read the words on these pages, which feels like a miracle and also gives me hope that maybe it’s all worth something. So thank you for being here with me.

Here’s what I’ve got this week….


From the window of my room I see the blue-green, sometimes gray, dollop of the tiny, island harbor. The somber surf slosh-sloshes onto the rocky shore situated too close to the cabins and cottages the lobstermen call home.

I would like to believe I understand this. I would like to believe I share that secret, sacred thing with the 45 others who remain to face whatever winter may bring. I would like to believe we have been initiated by some collective loss, some shared grief we sought to escape. We’ve spread it over these 576 acres some 12 miles out to sea. 

Perhaps I am projecting. Perhaps they came only for the silence and the seagulls. Though, winter is a small price to pay for the wreckage of humanity, the wasted vicissitude that lies on the other side of the water.

I am not trying to be sad here. But also, I am not trying to be happy. Which feels nice, which feels like the soft, brumal air that sidles across the water and over my half naked body. The night is smoke black. I sleep next to the open window expecting to be cold, but maybe I am too close to the dead to feel it. 

Across the harbor is a drop of stone and grass on which the remnants of a driftwood shack remain. It was occupied some 40 years by the hermit of Manana. He moved from New York City, considered it an upgrade. They say he lived without heat or running water, and that his only warmth came from the goose and goats he kept as company. Forty Maine winters, alone. That is the price of war.   

I would like to know the deep of the island winter. I would like to see the frost cold stars unyielding to the light of the land, the wild boughs of blood-red bittersweet caught in the fury of verglas. I would like to see the coruscating mustard of the goldenrod dim, the whorled aster and jewelweed laid to rest. But it is not my time.

Soon. Soon I must return to the place of summation. Soon I will wade through the crowds of people driven mad in their pursuit of endless happiness. Soon I will surrender the emerald green paths and sharp, sea air and proffer my mind and hands and mouth to the money they say I should want. The home I said I would create. 

I feel the press, the staccato of a breath that is a lifetime, the valuation of each singular minute. I have become disoriented amidst the sea-worn shingles and stone-gray skies. I no longer know what it is I am supposed to want. 

Except, perhaps, to stay. How strange to want to go exactly where you are right now. 

I will return. I will remember how to smile. At all the right times. I will buy dinner and new tires and violin lessons for the child who is worth a legion of frozen stars. And when the seasons change, as they are wont to do, I will come again to this place. I will watch the barberry shatter under the weight of a thousand tiny crystals and the rime of the harbor when the fog no longer holds against the cold. And then I will know I am home. 

Published by dainsworth

The tether. That thing that binds us to our families of origin, not by any desire of our own, but through the mere act of existence. We spend our lives exploring the roots of this connection, be it to an unending wellspring of love or the heavy, unshakeable burden of pain. We create new ones. We watch as old ones fray. And sometimes, in life's most painful moments, we witness those tethers break. (un)tethered traces the paths of old and new connections through family, love, the modern church, and fourteen-years of single-parenting. I begin this blog in a time of deep uncertainty, having recently left my position at the boarding school where I lived and taught for the past five years. Technically, I still live in Charlottesville, VA, but the next steps in life could take us anywhere! There are many unknowns ahead, but I know I am not alone in this. I hope this will be a place of solace for all who are wandering/wondering through this time.

2 thoughts on “14. Winter

  1. I thank you Dana, as one of your readers, for taking me along with you on this adventure. I sense the initiation you’ve experienced – you now understand anyone who’s been on a small island miles from shore. And your family will be blessed more than your readers; your new perspective will be valued. I’ve no doubt you will return at some point in the future – children mature and seek their own adventures, just as you once did, which will free you to roam, if that is your desire.

    For some reason, I’m enthralled by your words: ” I no longer know what it is I am supposed to want.” Sounds like a stage of initiation that “islanders” reach. Is it the first step towards further initiation into the deeper mysteries of life? Something to ponder as the time for “summation” approaches.

  2. On second reading, it seems that you’re describing an out-of-body experience I hadn’t noticed before. Is it the heavenly music I’m playing in the background? Feeling closer to the dead lying next to the open window; the disoriented feeling you mention. This is what I aim for when I meditate – to move out of the physical and into the spiritual realm. Still an initiation experience, but I think I’ll remember Winter as your out-of-body experience.

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