On Winter

Don’t Look Now

We have reached the pissy part of winter, the cold, unforgiving phase I want to believe won’t happen year after year. “Don’t look at me,” Shelley says, which of course, makes me turn my head. It’s 26 degrees with a breeze — feels like 19 — and she is laughing, only her eyes visible, with a knit hat to her eyelids and her blue-grey scarf up over her nose. I wrestle my red pashmina into service, wishing I had thought of this first.

Although it crossed our minds to weenie out, we are walking early morning laps around Rock Ridge Park. We look like bank robbers, but there is no one to see us, no one dumb enough to trade chapped skin and dry sinuses for chit chat and exercise.

Bob and I get up in the dark and retire in blackness. The sun ditches us before I finish pulling dinner together, so I turn on the lights and pull the drapes. I feel cloistered, but what can you do? My kitchen lights up like a diorama when it’s dark outside, and I prefer no one see me poking around the stove in my fluffy socks and tired flannel. Lit up like this, we look like Billy Pilgrim and Montana Wildhack in their Tralfamadorian zoo cage, only not as young or sexy.

Bob sees me rush to the window and raises an eyebrow, so I let him in on my diorama bias. “You don’t look in people’s windows, do you?” he says, and I have to confess that I do. As a child, I took voyeuristic pleasure in what I glimpsed from the back seat of Dad’s Ford on the way home from Sunday dinner at Nana’s. I entertained myself with stories about the people watching TV, getting ready for bed, and working in their kitchens. Illuminated windows still draw my attention, even when I’m behind the wheel.

Only a few days ago, after a week of open-window weather, I brushed aside willow oak leaves and pushed Cylindra seeds into the loamy soil. I’m not a risk-taker by nature, but the stakes are low. Either they’ll sprout and flourish, or they won’t. We’ve got lots of beet seeds, way more than we’ll use this season. Working my way westward, I planted Detroit Dark beets, May Queen and Buttercrunch lettuce, and smooth-leaf spinach.

We’ll see if they make it. Time will tell. Hopefully, I’ll make it, too, through another dark winter without too many people seeing me at my worst.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

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