It was the year I cut logs for the new house and roads, roads like veins that let the timber bleed. You wore a different shawl each day. It was the year I shot the white mare, and her filly, equally white, refused to follow the herd to winter pasture. It was the year you let me the first time, before the aspen turned. Then it was the winter the sky couldn’t get off the ground. East wind went down the chimney and filled the house with smoke.
The new house consisted of sticks and strings and numbers on scraps of paper. Facts are mercenary bastards. Spring was the fallacy that brought you back, but nothing in the world could hold you. The last storm we hauled feed to the snowbound horses. The white filly stood her ground apart. You fed that rowdy gang instead, those blue jays, vainglorious thieves that loitered in the pines behind the house. I wouldn’t say you tamed them, but they flew down to you for crumbs.
It took all June to haul foundation stone from the mountain, to screen enough sand from the river for mortar. It was the year we cut hay between squalls, and the aspen turned early, their self-elegy, and the evergreens I’d cut down turned into walls. You scolded the aspen outside your window for staying green when all the rest were gold. Now that you’re gone a second time I already know what it’s like. It snows inside. Jays swirl around the house like a blue shawl. Loud and bright they follow me whenever I go out — to the barn, the spring, even into the patient woods.
It’s been storming for a week. The quakies are bare except for the one by the window, which is gold, in snow, and won’t let go its leaves. The evergreens are singed with frost so that each is delineated, individual, each in its own doorway of ice. The new roof is half-finished. It snows inside. The early settlers here made houses out of trees and tried to live. When they starved out and moved on, they burned their houses down to get the nails back.