Here is a woman. She believes she has forever – or, at least forty more years – to work at her beloved craft, to live in a beloved place. She is, of course, wrong. She knows that it is pointless to worry about where she will go next. All that is necessary and holy is to write what comes next.
She is on her way to an outhouse that she shares with the dozen or so people who live in the other cabins. One of the other residents of the little haven asks to take her picture for an author portrait. He laughs – because she is carrying a roll of toilet paper. She loves that she lives the life she lives: in the company of kin, with a wood stove, a desk, a loft bed, a cabin made from scrap lumber, a perfect little window over the sink where she does her dishes with water she hauls from the waterhouse. Later, she will write this:
She Changes Everything She Touches
This evening, Orion sequinned against a black sky, I walked to the waterhouse, drew hot water for my dishes, and walked back. My breath shone in front of me, vaporous as the clouds that wreathed the mountains I could no longer see, but knew were there, rising up against night, hanging over the holiday glitter of my home. The gray cat ran beside me, stepping into the powder snow, raising her delicate paws and shaking them, crying out to me to move more quickly, more quickly. Silver and shadow filled the world.
I poured hot water over my dishes. Steam rose, clean and sweet. I picked up the first cup and set it in the suds. Lisa Thiel’s Songs of Transformation spun into the room. She sang of goddesses and cascades and stars. A porcelain Kwan Yin and an ivory-colored hare stood on the windowsill. A gray big-breasted clay rabbit rose three feet tall on the counter, Swedish Geranium twining around its belly. On the altar to the east, Ixchel, Mayan Moon Goddess of the healing arts and childbirth, embraced her springtime consort the hare. There are a hundred rabbits in my cabin, fifty Ladies, more moons than I can count. Our Asian sisters, at least the ones who remember, see a rabbit in the moon. I have seen the moon, mysterious silver in a big hare’s eyes.
I rinsed the cup. It rested in the drainer, steaming in the cool air. Behind me, the woodstove turned wood to warmth. I remembered hating washing dishes—when I washed them for seven, when only I washed the dishes in which only I had cooked the food which only I had bought, the dishes in which only I had served the food only I had grown.
Now, washing dishes is pure beauty. This cup is mine. This coffee stain. This crumb of baked potato. This rice. This sauce. This sliver of apple skin, translucent as the moon. These dishes, none matching, each a gift, drying in the cabin’s deepening warmth. The water, four gallons, which will cool and be poured on the Swedish Geranium, the avocado, the peony my friend, Chris, gave me.
The music ends. I rinse the washpan, hang the cloth to dry. The fire leaps in the stove. Earlier, I sat here with a friend. She sat with tears. She sat with what she believed was nothing, which was her living alone. We sat in silence. There was nothing to say. Nothing gave way to tears. Tears to nothing. Nothing to peace. Nothing to nothing. We sat and the juniper burned and the stove gave off heat.
She changes everything she touches…everything She touches changes…She changes everything she touches…everything She touches changes…
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