Could it be Canada’s gift of a mid-winter Chinook? Perhaps a pressure ridge explained by a climatologist on the evening news that I never watch? Whatever the reason, Lady Lake has retreated to her ice-water mansions and allowed the Keweenaw to recall blue skies.
On my walk, I follow the road that curves downhill, and an unexpected melt exposes pavement like random ink blots. In a region with less snow, one might see ground but ours remain firmly girded by mounds of crisp meringue. Along the driveway, the drifts grow taller than the hood of my car.
The previous week, Jasper, one of two huskies I live with, escaped his pen because the snow drifts and the piles I’ve pushed off the deck until it grew taller than a single story of a house created a land bridge similar to the one I imagine first Americans crossing from one continent to another.
Once free of dog fencing, Jasper roamed the neighborhood and found a rabbit. To my great sadness, the rabbit did not survive being discovered by a husky. I knew that bunny — I’d watch him every night after the household sought slumber. It was the bunny-hour when he’d hop from behind Mrs. H’s garage and burrow his way into our dormant garden.
Who minds a bunny in winter eating what remains of unharvested kale? Evidently, Jasper.
We all awoke to crimson snow, blotted like a crude ink painting by a deranged editor has gone mad with a red pen. You can’t blame the dog for following instinct. We hadn’t realized the bridge formed a means of escape. Never had I mourned a rabbit, but somehow as I age life becomes more precious; spilled blood so wasteful.
That’s when the warmth arrived and the snow ceased to fall. Every time I took the stairs, I could see the red snow from the landing window. I wanted fresh precipitation to cover the evidence. Ever notice how difficult it can be to confront our shadow selves? We see dogs as loyal companions because we want to believe in higher motives for us all.
In the end, they are dogs with instincts and we are fallible to protect the life around us. Recently I read a profound statement that each one of us is dying our own way. I’ve heard it before, that we began dying the day we were born. Even Mel Gibson as his famous character, William Wallace said, “Everyone dies, not everyone lives.”
It’s the second part of that line which draws my attention. The snuffing of a winter rabbit reminds me of my own mortality, yet it is the capacity to feel sorrow at its passing that reminds me to live. To know joy we must know sorrow. To live we must confront the inevitability of death. It comes down to choice.
I know what not living looks like. I’ve seen it in the suburbs with families who train up their children to be conformists. I’ve seen it in the rural areas with people choosing to be separatists, carving out hidey-holes and hoarding food for times of impending doom. I don’t want to pretend death doesn’t exist or that I can avoid it in a bunker. I want to live. I want to throw ink and shape the blots into stories that break through conformity and hiding.
Ink has vexed me these past months. Writers depend upon ink as if it were our bloodline — without ink there could be no written stories, no books, no pages of WIPS to mark with an editor’s red pen. My desk holds no quill or bottle, but my printer drinks vials of the stuff. Ink has run dry.
First, it was black. Makes sense, after all, I write and print pages in black ink. To purchase the recommended replacement, it took me a month to save up the extra cash. By the time I replaced it cyan began to falter like a disappearing Keweenaw sky in winter. Yellow followed and soon magenta. Colorless, I switched to grayscale.
Then my printer decided it couldn’t do black anymore. I bought another but it refused to print, saying the colors must be replaced too — it did not have enough ink to maintain printer quality. Is that some analogy for writing (oh, you know it is)? Without the lifeblood, we can’t produce. Without choosing to be ink we go dry and nothing happens. Nothing gets written. No stories emerge.
It took another month to afford the three colors. My list of what I needed to print bloomed. No store carries my printer brand, so I ordered online. When the brown delivery truck arrived I rejoiced. Ink had returned like the sun! Ah, blast it all — the ink catridges fit but my printer declared “can’t detect.” Learning I could return the inks, but needing to print a return slip, I ordered a cheap off-brand.
It didn’t work, either.
Finally, I called the printer company, and after I recited printer models and serial numbers, and tried the ink cartridges with the rep on the line two conclusions arose — first, I ordered an incompatible but correct brand, and second I ordered the wrong brand. My printer would not accept the microchips in either. Microchips? Yes, ink is chipped and I don’t feel good about this technological advance.
Give me ink. Give me life. Let me create freely, unfettered by monitoring, policing, judgment or microchips.
The irony of it all is that I had to order yet a third round of ink before I could return the first two. At least I get my money back for the frst two or else it’d be after the return of daffodils before I was up and printing again. Ink arrived today along with a splurge purchase of a turquoise infinity scarf decorated with golden-red foxes. I plan to wear it to my Vet Center book event.
Tonight I’m late in finishing this post not because of my nocturnal writing preference but because of a follow up to the Jasper story. We blocked his land bridge but he found access to it nonetheless. Knowing dogs, once they catch the scent of prey, they’ll keep sniffing so I’ve become mindful when I let him out and supervise his outdoor time.
Someone else let the two huskies out, and I realized it when I heard the other, Ilya, barking his stranger-danger bark. Thinking, Jasper might be out, I rushed to the door to the deck and pen below and Jasper pushed into the porch. Relieved, I called Ilya who was barking at a man parked on the road that had been ink-blotted the day before but now was buried beneath a fresh snowstorm.
Through the pelting snow, he yelled up to me as I stood on the deck, something about hitting a dog with his truck. Knowing Bobo was inside on the couch, Jasper on the porch and Ilya making conversation in a blizzard difficult, I assured him it wasn’t our dogs. Then he said, “But I hit the dog you just let in.” My heart stilled a brief moment.
By then my SIL had come out and I told him Jasper had been hit…by a huge truck. The man explained it was snowing and he tried to stop when the dog bounded out in front of him but his brakes locked on the fresh ice, and he slid into the dog. He followed Jasper to our place and watched the dog get back into the pen. We thanked him for his kindness in letting us know, otherwise, we’d have had no idea of the event.
Tonight, we’ve monitored Jasper after a call to the vet. No long bones seem to be broken, his stomach is not distended and his gums readily pink (if he had internal bleeding his gums would stay white after pressing upon them because of lack of blood flow). But the dog is contrite and sore. He pressed into my thigh with his big husky head and I crooned in his ear, rubbing his shoulders.
I told him, “Sometimes we get lucky and find bunnies in the big world. And sometimes we get hit by big trucks. But for tonight, you’re alive Jasper and I’m grateful.”
I suppose we seek a balance between reckless living and fear of dying. Don’t be afraid to use your ink, but don’t take it for granted either.
January 11, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wet ink. It can be artistic, writerly or something completely off-the-wall. Go where the prompt leads.
Respond by January 9, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published January 10). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
The Evaluation by Charli Mills
“Looks like an athlete running.”
“Definitely a giraffe dancing the mamba.”
I can’t tell if the suit showing me ink blots takes my answers seriously. He’s just another cog in the government wheel of oppression.
“A storm with black raindrops.”
His pictures are stale blots. After watching FBI agents shoot my mother why would I conform to the government? They killed the adults in our compound. I’m only 13, but I know the freedom he doesn’t.
“A deer in the willows.”
My imagination is wet ink. I’ll survive captivity to create a better world.