Another snow fell on top of another snow. They piled up in Iowa, late November until April. The first blanket was light, soft, and clean until muddied and grayed by the roadside, where snowplows threw grit, sand, and ice in the raw morning. By mid-February, the dirty drifts packed down in rough-hewn walls no shovel could breach.
Nobody planted a seed until after Mother’s Day. In Alabama, my dad planted beans on Good Friday, following the lore of the South’s highlanders. Now I walked in the level lands.
Bleak midwinter. “Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.” It was a foreign carol, even romantic, until I took a turn in a neighbor’s winter garden but found no solace. The moon gate of graying cypress shone silver. Snow and verdigris cooled the bronze firedogs guarding each side. I unlatched the gate, a tiny click in the silence. The arbor and trellis showed their perpendicular bones. A ghostly white-barked birch stood nearby, apart. Large flakes muffled needle-thin bird tracks. Bits of deep green foliage pricked through a smothered hedge. The wind lifted and stormed the copper chimes.
On the deck at home, snow had layered inch by inch on the seats of Nannie’s ice-cream chairs that surrounded a diminutive 1940s iron table. Its fishnet-mesh tabletop had long disappeared. The wind sculpted the forms until they were fat and round—like my grandmother’s bridge partners. I fancied the ladies when rays of moonlight fell on an otherwise darkened stage.
A plump player sat to the far left—the indomitable Thelma with a proud bosom, like a ship’s prow. She dozed until Nannie deeply scolded, “Thelma, play a spade!” The woman started, harrumphed, and carelessly threw down a flimsy card. Nannie huffed. Thelma nodded off.
The rising wind carried their voices into the night. Then all fell still. Peace.