Forget the Day

I thank the Lord for the nighttime.  As soon as it ticks past midnight, something in me clicks on.  It’s inspiration time around these parts.  It’s dark outside, it’s quiet, it’s perfectly acceptable for me to be on the couch swathed in blankets instead of doing something productive like shoveling snow or shimmying into my running tights for a jog.  My computer pulses silently, its white light hovering close to its metallic surface, and then pulling back again, dimming.

Ruby, our dear dog, who used to look like this, but who has now grown up somewhat (in stature, not in maturity),

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is lying next to me, her back curved against the couch.  She huffs every now and then, whips her tail a little in her sleep.  Ruby carries around the head of her Christmas stuffed raccoon—its body long lost—as if it is very precious, and has been taking great care lately to infuse it with slobber and stray fur to make up for its recent encounter with the washing machine.  She hardly stirs any more when I read a bit of paragraph aloud, or when I rouse myself for juice or phone charger.

This is my time, after all.  It has always been this way.  I no longer expect anyone—including the dog—to stay awake for it.

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A First

As I was walking home from copy editing with the newspaper; as I passed by the small public library, its parking lot lit with ugly, spiring street lamps, I looked up into the orange glow to see a cloud of white flakes above me, descending silently.  I stopped short to watch.  Tumbling softly over each other, these flakes fell further and further until one single snowflake gingerly stretched out a finger to touch the ground before committing entirely.  I saw that snowflake before it tumbled to the concrete, and after.  I walked out into a clear night, and was still walking when it filled with snow.

Out of all the firsts that all of humankind has witnessed, from the first human mother to hold her first human child; from the men who looked out at the pale expanse of the moon before it held footprints, and who were almost sorry to see its dust stirred into artificial ridges; from  the very first time pen was set to paper, and the very first person discovered the indescribable beauty that lies in describing absolutely anything one pleases; I suspect that my first was rather insignificant.

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Badlands, South Dakota. Summer, 2012.

But it felt to me, as firsts often feel, like I had discovered the most important thing in the world, and like, for that first minute, the universe was allowing me to keep it to myself.  I basked, stock-still, for my one minute, and then continued toward home, gazing fondly at the white coating on street and building, as if I had brought it all about.

Of course, my sentimental reverie ended abruptly when I neared home, and remembered my truck, which is still–despite yet more valiant efforts on the part of my gentleman caller, some ice melt, and me this afternoon–stuck on the ice in front of my house.  I wondered if the snow would provide the friction needed for the tires to lurch free.

Don’t Watch Downton Late At Night

***NO SPOILERS

Downton Abbey slayed me last night.  Absolutely slayed me.  I couldn’t even sleep afterwards; I had to pull the trick I developed when I was a kid: I read something nice until I’d forgotten about whatever was not so nice.

If you don’t watch Downton, you should probably get on board.  It’s only the third season, so it’s really not too late.

And then we can talk about it together.

Copy Editing

Last night, although it held on until 2 this morning, was glorious.  There’s so much more to copy editing than quiet and the flick of thumb or pen against paper, even more than the good-natured debate about the merits of the Oxford Comma.

Copy editing, at least in the context of the University Register, of the University of Minnesota, Morris, means piles of musty papers leaning against one another in all corners of the office.  It means the smell of stale popcorn and the occasional crunch of the occasional SweeTart underfoot (leftover from the Activities Fair).  Copy editing means an office like a sauna; it means the main office and the smaller one take the fan in shifts, grudgingly lugging it back after two hours have passed.  It means ordering a pizza at 10 pm because we’re hungry and because all of E-Quality’s extra pizza was eaten before we knew it had been offered.  It means trooping to Higbies for coffee, for smoothies, for fresh air.  It means barely stifling moans of anguish at the appearance of another NASCAR article.  It means AP is God.  It means the combination of people’s surnames, scrawled across a whiteboard to uproarious delight.  It means actually finding an earring that, lacking a back, slipped onto the floor of the Student Center without my knowledge.

Eventually, perhaps, if you care to wait up until the tired paperboy walks the campus, depositing a pile of newspapers at every building, copy editing means a publication we can all read without cringing.

We Shovel At Midnight

Thinking five inches sufficient for a little while, the storm let up at 10 pm, as I was walking to work.  It was inhaling again when I walked home at midnight, sucking snow into drifts against doors and windows, and up into the sky.  As I was stamping a path to my door, my friend Ben walked out of his apartment with a shovel.  “I just love shoveling,” he said.

So I joined him, snatching a shovel from beside my own door.  It was flimsy blue plastic, used by the maintenance staff for the light snow we’ve come to expect this winter.

We began our work, dipping and bowing, scraping snow onto the lips of our shovels and tossing it off again, wincing as icy pellets blew back into our faces.  It was thrilling to be outside so late, voices echoing off sleeping buildings.  Two others joined us after a while, and we all talked a little, mostly about the futility of what we were doing; another wave of the snow would be upon us in an hour.  We justified, saying that we were getting the difficult snow, the icy stuff that could only be removed if one threw one’s shoulder against the handle of the shovel, slamming it down against the sidewalk.  But really, it didn’t matter if everything was covered by morning.  The point of midnight shoveling is not to accomplish much.  It’s something you only do once, when you’re twenty-one, and it’s February, and the first real snow of winter has come screeching across the prairie to bury your campus.

We finished at 1, having shoveled every bit of sidewalk in the apartment square; the main paths surrounding the common building, and the small ramp-like ones leading up to each door.  There wasn’t much of a ceremony to putting the shovels back, to saying good night and trudging upstairs to bed.  Only the storm was reverent; bowing for a moment to survey our work before hurrying to erase it before anyone else could see.