cold mountain (60)

with paper pants and tiles for shorts
dying of hunger and cold in the end

Your farmer and I coincide in our dark thoughts: in the midst of abundance he imagines the worst, the stores depleted, the family in ruins, and in the middle of the season of my freedom I imagine a devastating loss of independence, the heart’s penury. A room of my own has obsessed me for years, as I lived without both physically and imaginatively. Now here I am, sitting with homework and a coffee. Here I am, walking across the Green with a book. Here I am, striding down the hill from a lecture in the cool evening to go back to a small room and do what needs doing in my world. This is contentment, this is joy. Even so, there is the anxiety of living, the economy of it. It’s difficult to try and stay out here on my own, easy to go back and trade in both independence and worries for a safety net. Then I thought about the translation offer in my email today, which is drudgery of its own kind, exactly the kind of work I was going to avoid this year, except that if I want this room of my own—this university, this city, this country, this paradise gathered between my small hands—I need work of some kind to keep it so, or else I’ll find myself running back to the terrible safety I struggled to break from. I saw the terror through to the end, the shuttering of the city, the closing of this paradise, saw it collapse into a ruin of petty schedules and the brown cacophony of the inconsequential, a door that never shut on distraction and myself disintegrating uselessly into it all. I felt the death of afternoons spent lonely and happy and the taste of an apple eaten walking down the autumn-brilliant street and I can’t stand the thought of it… Like a wedge, this ridiculous business offer, like a wedge in the door already slamming shut in my mind, to prop open the sky a little. I’m talking nonsense, I know. It’s only the nerve-rattled dream-talk of a woman who sees what life is at stake, like a farmer imagining locusts when the crop is nearly ready for harvest.

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