by Zinta Aistars
Not war. This was climate change. Weather extremes that are taking us through overheated summers into brutal winters, shaking us up between with earthquakes and hurricanes, floods and tornadoes. Tonight, it was an ice storm.
The power had gone out shortly after midnight. That didn’t worry me, although I did recall a freezer full of expensive organic meats and grass-fed beef. I had just recently stocked up. Otherwise, the quickly dropping temperature in the house was still quite tolerable. After all, just a little over a week ago, I was camping out in the snow in a summer tent with screen windows and dog sledding through the forest. Heck, this was a breeze …
I slept off and on, my dog curled at my feet, quick to jump up, quick to bark at the nameless enemy. My cat touched a damp nose to my cheek, nudging me to let her in under the warmer blankets.
At first faint light, we rose, all three of us, and I bundled myself in a thick old sweater. The icy rain was still coming down, hitting the house like pellets.
See, an animal’s readiness to enjoy. What’s a storm to my old chow pup? He thought it funny that the snow crunched beneath his paws and danced a little, watching it crack. He gnawed at the edges like candy. He rolled on the pocked white surface, rolling this way and that, squirming and wiggling across the ice. An animal’s joy, ready for whatever comes and finding its good place. I had to smile. Even contemplated rolling and squiggling with him, but tree branches cold-kissed my face instead, drawing away my attention.
I left the dog outside, standing there in center yard, barking into the chill air, nose to pale gray sky, listening to his own echo.
I watched out the window as I packed a cooler. Neighbors had come out of their homes and were wandering the street, walking down its center, like lost souls. Looking for light. Seeking a current of energy. They stood at the end of their driveways, looking down the street, looking up the street, gazing up at the bleak sky.
Was the earth letting us know? Enough?
I went back to pack faster. We’d get stuck here, the three of us sillies and our thawing meat. The furry ones might appreciate it, but I preferred mine less rare. A bag of clothes to get me to work the next day, and we were off, three refugees, seeking warmer shelter.
Still standing in the drive, I heard another blast. Like a cannon firing an iron ball, splitting the air. Then splitting, tearing wood, and the tree in a neighbor’s yard, two houses down, sank as if kneeling, then fell straight across the yard. Another fallen soldier.
My heart squeezed. Another life done, and with it, home for countless tiny birds and animals.
Yet odd, how at moments there was beauty, too, in this battle zone. The light was too pale to catch in the icy facets, but the shrubs with leftover red berries from last fall clanked like crystal bells. Twigs clicked like castanets. There was a faint music in the air, if a funeral march or a dance of defiance, I could not yet tell.