By Jeanne Arnold
The April sun pokes—no, dimly casts a cool light through the midpoint branches of the evergreen tree. Except for that point of the sun, you’d think it was late November because of the snow cover around us, a orange-pink color on the whiteness to the west,
From my window I noticed a little squirrel tracking herself gingerly over the snow, seemingly surprised at the coldness against her bottom. I hope I don’t see her tracks in the snow again this year. Will I remember what neat little four-pointed configurations they make with tail fur dragging behind?
I thought of how motivated the pioneers and settlers had to be to read the tracks, to be wary of dangerous ones, yet to hunt a critter on more pristine snows. To catch and kill and skin and prepare this tiny morsel of meat is to survive another day in the wilderness. While I, with warm fresh coffee in my cup, having just turned up the thermostat to warm the house, can stand at the window to observe and contemplate these matters.
I also saw man’s footsteps in the snow delivering the morning newspaper. Soon there’ll be no footsteps because I will let Mother Nature melt them away. When that happens I’ll plan a new garden in the place of the squirrel’s visit.
My nature writing, the details required to do a good job on that, needs practicing. And I want to do that, but I don’t need to use long scientific words. I don’t know scientific words. I must be creative and see life and its details from simple perspectives, comfortable words.
The sun among the evergreen has risen to other branches, but it has also passed to the right of the trunk. Within minutes the arc of its travel shows that the sun is still arching toward the south. Is it always that way in our hemisphere? I love being aware of Nature’s dynamics, especially now in my senior years.
It is Christmas card-like now with no wind when it should be Easterish in Spring. Peace. You know that the time will come and you’ll leave your tracks skimming back and forth across the grass in your little yard to add to this summer’s beautiful projects. There’s so much to do since Barbara and I moved here years ago. I’ve accomplished a lot at many levels of living in my environment, including the challenges of living as a couple in the home we bought when women couldn’t even get credit cards without their father’s or husband’s permission.
Remembering that part of our history, I recall when Barbara and I were new in the neighborhood and the little boy who lived across the street came out to play. He surprised me when I was piling cobblestones from his family’s curb that were to be thrown away by City trucks that would collect them. I wanted to recycle the unique bricks around my garden.
He asked me with his innocent charm, “Who do you sleep with?”
Could he have heard his parents talking about the new couple on the block—two women? “Do you think they sleep together?” He just took this opportunity to get the answer. Will he report his findings to his source? Probably not because I confused him. I was stunned by his boldness, surprised by his content, and defensive by my vulnerability toward this four-year-old’s candid question—or his sweet naivety.
I asked, “Who do you sleep with? Do you have a teddy bear or a favorite blanket to keep you company when you sleep?”
I lifted the bricks into the trunk of my car more quickly now, hoping his puzzled and thoughtful expression would keep him distracted long enough for me to make a cool escape from more questions. How could a simple question cause such deeply stressful responses on my body’s adrenaline and in my emotions: “Who do you sleep with?”
New lives together making new paths because no one could have made them for us. We didn’t realize what pioneers we were. The woods that we traveled through to find a place to rest was made of different plants and animal species that treated us as invaders, trespassers in the land of privilege and conformity in the environment of the accepted family: father, mother and children, tradition, convention and straightness.
We were strangers—two women in their mid-forties, two women together making new trails. And though Barbara has died, I’m still here. I’m watching, observing, enjoying the growing numbers of diverse paths in our neighborhoods, in our city, county and in much of the world.
I hope we helped in our way so that the question, “Who do you sleep with” will not be such an ominous threat to one’s peace of mind.
Next week—A Midsummer Solstice on North Beach
Unsung Women: the Un-known Herstory History
Submit written nominations about past or present women from Racine/Kenosha whose contributions to the wellbeing of our families, churches, schools, communities and beyond who have not or have been UNder acknowledged.
Four UNsung women nominees will be selected from January through May, 2022
The nominator is asked to provide:
• answers to Who, What, When, Where, How and Why details of your nominee’s herstory in a document or resume format.
• photographs, drawings, illustrations to enhance herstory;
• a reference person or documentation serving as evidence of proof.
Submit your nomination details to <firstname.lastname@example.org> with your name and where you may be reached.
Please do not nominate women who have already been “sung.”