There you are, I think, as my breath catches in surprise. I let out a sigh. Of relief? Maybe. Or perhaps just acknowledgement.
You’ve been gone for a while, but not forever. No, never that.
Now I see you, stretched across the barren, ravaged, winter ground, chalky white and gray. Wispy tendrils of opaque, brisk air, snaking across this silent land. Like leftover music from a child’s music box, after the party is over. You haunt and linger.
There you are, I think as I turn from my warm spot inside towards the empty, winter landscape. As if all I had to do was open my eyes, or angle my body a different way. As if you were the shadows, waiting for a hint of light in the sky to set you sweeping across my ribs, nudging your way back into my lungs and heart, or perhaps stealing the life out of them.
Now I see you, Grief. Clear as though through a window with no pane, no filter between us. Distinct and sharp enough to smell you in the harsh frozen air. Too cold to be anything so peaceful as fresh. More like a cleansing, the bracing burn of scent. Of moments lost.
I never know if you aim to stop my breath, or urge me to keep breathing. That is the truth of grief’s long companionship, what can at once feel like painful stolen air, can also feel like finally sucking in oxygen. Finally, there you are.
Many moments I almost forget you. You stay hidden, napping far down underneath my daily life. You chameleon, you. How can you be so many different things, invisible, aching, hovering in the hidden wind, exposed, raw, waiting to be acknowledged, hard-edged and soothing? You magician, an exposé of my emotions.
Now I see you. In the bracing, burning, painful cold of a northern winter. Too cold to snow. Too cold to melt the already fallen snow. Too cold to hide the pain inside my heart, all our hearts.
Some may think it is exactly this bitter cold that whips you into presence, but that’s only because they don’t truly know you. They have yet to understand that once we meet, you are a constant, and it doesn’t take sub-zero wind chill to feel you.
I felt it, at our first meeting, when you scorched down a permanent scar in my bones. But sometimes, still, your dormancy lasts and almost deceives, until boldly and suddenly there you are again. These moments you rage up in whorly spirals, blustering all your burning, freezing power, the full blow to a chest, a breath caught.
There you are, my constant companion exposed anew for me. At times you feel like a reprimand. As if I had forgotten you, you shock me back, tugging the marionette strings on my shoulders. At others, I feel you like an old friend, someone truthful and knowing, who understands. A caress of a familiar that can deliver me the whole true world. You both knock the wind out of me, and give me life. Wind stealing wind. Returning my breath forever changed.
Here you are upon my lungs again, oh bleak winter. All my grief.