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Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux

The Day’s Delight: Snow White’s Spring

It’s really and truly Spring here in the North!

The temperature has vacillated: warm then cold to the point of snow (from which I looked the other way). The trees were in suspended animation for longer than I can remember in my thirteen years up here: buds just starting to open, put on pause. It makes me think of Snow White in her glass coffin: beautiful and timeless and not living or dead, really.

I wonder what she dreamed then, what the trees felt as they held that pose. Though I’m against non-consenual fairy tale kissing of damsels of any kind, the story is the psyche: the prince and the sleeper are both you. What part of you has been asleep, caught with the words in her throat, unable to swallow something? And what part of you is noble and good and valorous; which you in the greater You sees beauty, innocence, goodness, stuckness and is moved to action? To serve, awake, help?

That’s the sun and the trees.

That’s the ravens flying past my window, building nests and finding mates.

That’s me walking through town looking for beautiful things to pick up and touch. Or writing a letter while lying on the rocks at the water’s edge. Or riding a new bike down a smooth road at dusk when the lake is pink and platinum blue.

We’re always waking ourselves and each other up. Because we’re always making, giving, taking poison apples? Yes, but I don’t think it’s as dire as it sounds.

You includes the maiden, the prince, the helpers… and the witch.

And what if the witch isn’t the villain we need her to be in the literal, Disneyfied story?

There’s a beautiful poem by Karin Boye that starts, Of course it hurts when buds burst, otherwise why would Spring hesitate?

Who knows what journeys Snow White went on while in that deathly sleep– what Underworld she visited within herself? Who knows how keeping watch over her glass casket transformed the dwarves? Who knows what the prince needed to save with something as gentle as a kiss?

The dwarves didn’t go to work in the mines. The prince didn’t slay a dragon. And Snow White got some fucking sleep.

The timing always turns out to be just right. For fairy tale characters. For trees. For you and you and You.

The Day’s Delight: Reveal

I caught up with a friend today, on a long walk, with two kids and one happy dog in the long, yellow light of Spring.

The dog stopped, pointed, flushed a wing-thumping grouse out of the undergrowth.

The boys lagged behind, discussing something that likely involved dragons or other magical creatures.

And my friend and I told the stories of the weeks that somehow have been lifetimes and years: foster kids for one of us, a new and permanent home for the other, and all the feelings and ideas that have gone with both: trust and fear, anxiety and ecstatic joy, resentment and tender-hearted gratitude.

Ennis and I stayed for supper and didn’t leave until after 8:00– these long, bright evenings make it impossible to believe the day is really done. These long, luminous twilights make it impossible to know just what the universe will reveal, and when.

The Day’s Delight: Forest Dog

I took Blue up to a forest road off the Gunflint Trail for the third day in a row. It’s been quite a while since I walked in the woods with that dog, and it was nice to spend time with her.

We went to the same road each time because it was easy, and it’s the time of year when 24 hours makes a huge difference in the amount of spring green that’s showing– and because I figured that with all the changes my divorce has had on the dog, something familiar would be a good thing.

She loosened up sooner this time– excited and amped up, still a true Weimaraner needing to Run So Fast– but that wild edge wasn’t there. She came back right away when I called. She ran ahead but not away.

I told her she was a good dog– the goodest and the prettiest– because she is, and because I love to tell the people and places and animals I love that I love them.

This might sound like something sad, or a consolation prize: to walk the dog I said I did not want/could not manage solo. But it didn’t feel that way. It felt like spending time with a friend, albeit a sort of toddler-gladiator-distance runner friend: Blue has her own life, her own energy and smarts and things to work on. She’s not here for me to “save,” which is something I felt pretty intensely about the pets I had when I was younger. She’s resilient and gritty, and I think she’s ok without me, and I’m ok without her.

But she’s still the best companion in a stretch of grouse habitat. To see her sense something chaseable, going instantly from constant motion to still as stone– I like that. I like to try to ride that tailwind of her dogness, and I like how she’s right, every single time. Long after I’ve given up staring into the trees, she holds her point, stalks closer, until the inevitable explosion: a beating of wings and four paws racing through the woods.

She could do this all day.

The Day’s Delight: Narwhal

The world’s a bigger place than I believe it is, sometimes, even right here in our little village on the shore.

I went to a BBQ– in and of itself miraculous and new and hopefully no longer rare. It was at a snug little timberframe cabin tucked back in the trees. Half the people I knew, and half I didn’t: what a delight that was, the reminder that I haven’t met every one of My People yet.

We sat and talked. A man with the most Scandinavian name ever wound up the literal victrola he’d brought with him, paged through the album of records (that put me very much in mind of those CD collections we all kept in our cars in high school and college), and played Ole i Skratthult and other Swedish songs. Someone asked, “How do you dance to this?” and because it was obvious to me, I waltzed. Because it wasn’t obvious to them, they were impressed.

I suppose it could have been the same for our host and the Arctic mementos he passed around for us to hold: a narwhal tusk! A carving of mammoth ivory! A narrative etching on a walrus tusk, an Inuit game to tell you if your mushing dog would have a large or small litter of puppies, a charm for good luck or bad (depending on if it was given to you or hidden in your things), a harpoon head made from the scraps of a crashed airplane… And the key to Knud Rasmussen’s Greenland hut.

What a thing to hold in your hand– any and all of it! We all agreed that, yes, one of the items was called a key, but really, every one of them unlocks something.

They say a narwhal uses its tusk to communicate, (whoever they are who study and ponder and observe narwhals): it acts as a sort of antenna. It grows on the left side of the mouth, and a dormant tusk grows on the right, not quite as long as a pencil. The ivory grows in a spiral and, like a particular type of greenwood construction used in traditional Norwegian homes in which the wood grain is spiraled, it is almost impossible to break.

I spoke (very) little of a language I once studied. I told some (very much abbreviated) stories of how I came to the present When and Where. I tried out how to refer to the person to whom I am not yet divorced, and how to answer the question, “What do you do?” now that I deeply appreciate but don’t identify by my day job.

What I did was this: I carved a little of my own ivory. Shaped the bones that hold all the life I’ve lived so far. I plucked them from my body like an extra rib, marked them with code and symbol, made them what they’ve always been becoming: Art.

And because art is meant to (must?) be shared, I passed them around, no longer part of the secret, intimate inside of my Self, but talismans, tools, touchstones for this very specific and deeply universal story called Life.

The Day’s Delight: Free Piano

There’s that joke about the banjo player who absentmindedly leaves the car unlocked… and returns to find two banjos inside!

Well, it turns out that if you ask for a piano, the same thing happens: how are they like barn cats– so many that people will give them away for free? (And, just as with barn cats, are you sure I can’t keep them all?)

I’m not moving until June 1st, but I thought I’d put feelers out, try to find a piano to make my new home a real home. (The only other requirement is houseplants, and, I suppose, a cat). A friend from the theatre said, “you can have mine,” so I went up to try it out after work. (I know any piano needs tuning after it’s moved, but I grew up with one that, while fairly in tune with itself was two or three steps off, and no amount of professional adjusting could budge it).

This one sounded good, bright– and loud! Turns out I’ve just never played a piano that wasn’t pushed up against a wall before.

So, I told her I’ll take it! She said that, depending on the size of the guy, it could be moved by two to four people. That’s a very reasonable amount of bribery baking to do, I think.

And then: music for the making– and a hot house’s worth of potted plants on top!

The Day’s Delight: Tempest

It’s one thing to enjoy a high school Shakespeare production because you know and love all the kids in it. But this wasn’t that–this was just Good Theatre.

The physicality of the drunken butler and the sailors caught in the storm– I felt the ground moving under them and the world spinning around.

The ridiculousness of a maiden meeting her first young man ever and falling instantly in love– it could have been a tired old trope, but sincerity and commitment make magic. When the actor isn’t embarrassed, the audience can’t be either. As the author of “Audition” wrote (to high school aged Rose), life is cheesy. I’ve certainly lived that often enough to know it’s true.

There was the perfect posturing of the jester, the haughty disdain of the traitor, and, most beautifully, the moments of In Between. Those seconds when a character pivoted, shifted from rage and resentment to forgiveness, from selfish possessiveness to true generosity and release. In spite of the masks, the intention, the emotion carried. I felt it for the Duke, for the young actress, and for my younger self. It portaled me instantly back to West Side Story when I first held the audience’s breath, when I didn’t rush, when I trusted myself and trusted them to come with me, but more than that when I was that character in that moment, feeling stupefying and primal grief and fury, and then acceptance.

It was the final show of the short run, and the final show of the year for a number of seniors as well as kids going on to other adventures. A couple of them are going to Perpich, aka Arts High. I feel so much nostalgia and longing and excitement. I feel that I’m passing through in orbit, making a complete circle just as I approach my twenty-first high school reunion for a place they are about to discover– a place where I discovered a lot of myself.

Prospero the Duke/Sorcerer calls up a storm to wreck his enemies upon the shores where he has lived in exile. He will at last get his revenge, destroy what destroyed almost everything he knew. And then instead, he sets his spirit free– surely more than literally. He passes through the thin space, the doorway that was once impossible, and, I believe, because it’s what I feel for myself, builds his life anew, letting all that is no longer true be taken by the tide and washed away.

We need the storm, and we need the calm, and we call them both up ourselves.

The Day’s Delight: Swedish Cream

“What does it taste like?” you asked.

It’s as if whipped cream got better. Thicker and smoother, denser but somehow just as light. As if it became both custard and pudding.

It’s almost the exact, most balanced opposite to chocolate mousse. It’s Springy, dressed in a nearly-sheer layer of raspberry sauce that seems far too thin to transform what should be a blankness of taste, and yet is not, into a burst of curiosity and delight.

It’s all the women who called for the cows up in their mountain pastures where they spent the summer. It’s all the lovers they took after their work was done, the women with the milking and the butter churning and the cheese making, the men with the ploughing and sowing and harvesting. It’s the feeling of bare skin against moss. The smell of sweat and salt and sun from a day outside. The cool of the forest in the shade. The quiet chatter of the animals as the sun falls lower and lower, as lovers sink into each other.

And it’s the bright, clear taste of stars at night. Of waking at a time that is so liminal it is neither early nor late but a whole other reality all together. And it is, I answer you now, the feeling of reaching across the space between and taking a hand in mine, then sleeping, with a smile, until morning.

The Day’s Delight: Earth

A walk after dark with a friend. I spent so much time looking up between the trees that my shoulders are tight and my neck hurts, but how could I not look? Something so pretty and primal draws the eye.

We saw a long line of satellites. I couldn’t not anthropomorphize them: a column of interstellar birds in flight, never lagging or changing speed, cutting across the thickly scattered stars in the most unnatural way.

Loons called out, as if they, too, saw the strangeness of it. I almost couldn’t believe the loons were real: I was wearing a long down coat, boots, and gloves. It didn’t match up with the summery tremolos echoing over the lake.

It was a beautiful night; unplanned and unexpected. A long walk after a day spent walking (in the woods and around town). But a walk with good company can go on forever– and a walk in the dark could take you right up into the sky and you wouldn’t even notice until Elon’s fancy space robots went glide-marching by, and suddenly you’d remember there’s an Earth to be brought back to.

The Day’s Delight: Evening In

Pajamas before 6:00 p.m.

Half of a very 90’s movie (co-starring High Grant’s beautiful hair and endearingly English self-effacement).

Rain, and suddenly clouds in blushing orange and rose in saturated blue.