Sometimes I take my dog for a walk down a long dirt road with vistas on every side. There are barns painted teal. There are old, neglected chicken coops–the doors a faded red. Fields are everywhere, dotted with cows in the warm months, now barren but fecund soon enough. A small frozen puddle surrounded by rounded quartz rocks appears like a tiny quarry as you reach the end of the straight part of the road and turn right. On the left is a contemporary house with solar panels and large square windows. The end of the road leads to snowmobile trails that, seeming to go on forever, beg you to get lost within their tentacles. And then appears an abandoned barn filled with junk. It might fall down any moment, but there was a time, before I was scared to venture inside, when I pilfered antiques from within. It is abandoned. And so I coined it fair game.
The temperature where I live often dips down into the teens in the morning, which is when I walk Pluto, who, nearly hairless, sometimes can’t take the cold. Either that or she sees I can’t take it. She will suddenly stop and look at me, beleagered, the wind pushing her scant fur forward. But other times, my face heart-attack red, we do the whole walk, my head down and hood up, just trying to persist, and Pluto running away then back, away then back. I am unaware of the many reasons I always choose this path. That is the depression, blinding me to beauty.
But the other day I looked up. I took it all in, despite the brutal cold. And I take this as a good sign, a sign I am beginning to see outside myself and my winter misery. Truth be told this misery has persisted as long as I can remember. I have looked up before–but winter forces me back into my hole. I injected this moment with meaning. There are other signs, too: I am writing again, filling my fountain pens and switching between them for a variation in the thickness of the lines. It isn’t perfect–I am more interested in filling them with ink than I am using them for the purpose for which they are intended, but using the tool is half the battle. And for the first time in almost a year I can stand to look at antiques again. I went to a man’s 200-year-old house and took the tour. He has early dementia and kept forgetting what we’d already seen and the price we’d agreed on. It was just like old times: poring through the debris left by dead parents or spouses, offering a kind word, looking patiently at photo albums and hearing the history of each piece–even the glassware, in which I struggle to feign even a polite interest. It is a type of therapy for me and the seller and my favorite part of this strange business I have chosen.
This waking from depression is tricky business. One takes two steps forward, then one step back. But the steps forward are harbingers of possibility, of new skin, new thoughts, new willingness to take steps that are still not available to me. I’m dying to take yoga, for instance, but I can’t get to the class. I can’t stand among people and move my body. But perhaps one day this will come as easily as looking up on the dirt road. That is how it happens–when you least expect it.