The garden beds are frozen and the hard earth gives little under our boots. Beneath insulating layers of leaves and grass clippings are the winter vegetables: red and green cabbage, gypsy radishes, still some carrots. We feel as always in the garden that electric lunar pull, our bodies each to each, even in these thick winter coats. Two women, scarves, bright hats, gloved hand in gloved hand. We turn, red-cheeked, give our backs to the wind. You are beautiful here. You wear your appetite for the land and its bounty on your rosy lips. I did not understand before I met you it is possible to survive such a climate, to thaw out, to dig in. We choose a cabbage for the soup we will prepare together. We climb the rise to our house, the dog racing round us in tight circles, binding us together with an invisible cord. Handfasting. There is a sparkle to this icy-sun day.
In the woods beyond the property line, Henry and I find what decades ago used to be a farmer’s burn pile. Under years’ worth of leaf litter and yesterday’s snowfall there are remains, hard things fire could not destroy: twisted and rusted metal and scores of glittering glass bottles. Henry excavates with delight and sure-handedness. I’m picking through delicately, two fingered, afraid I’ll cut myself. I do the math, count backward how many years it’s been since Henry’s last tetanus shot, or mine. It is a beautiful day. The pile holds a kind of promise to which I am unaccustomed. Henry holds like a trophy a pale blue gem of a bottle. There is a grinding of porcelain like sand under our feet as we walk. I think of Henry’s long lost baby teeth, how each felt precious in my tooth-fairy palm.
I am married to Henry’s father but I do not feel a thing. When it is over only flashes of memory, like arthouse photographs, will remain: me, naked, seated on the edge of the bathtub or perhaps laid out on the stripped-bare mattress. Henry is not yet born. Henry is an infant asleep in his crib. I am practised at this retreat to the comfort of the velvet dark. I spend years this way, hollow, cold-fingered, dutiful, envied by the playgroup moms. You’re so thin, they say. Your home so neat. When do you find the time? Time, I would tell them if I could, is endlessly available to me here, in this blank space between the folds of days, wedged, weightless, between plaster and brick. Invisible. Later I will hold a polaroid of my married self in astonished hands, marvel at the starburst of brilliant overexposure that obscures my face.
Henry and I are scavenging around the burn pile. It is January and a layer of snow coats the tangle of bottles and rusted metal. Henry is nearly seventeen although he does not yet drive and he does not yet shave. He is baby-faced as he rifles with excitement through the rubble. After a while he fishes from deep within the pile a small cylindrical bottle. It is plain but I can tell Henry has found something he likes. Up close, I see: the bottle holds inside a beautiful miniature landscape, a hothouse, mosses and ferns alive in Henry’s hand in Ohio in the dead of winter. Gestating in that pile has been this thriving ecosystem, this terrarium, this bright green miracle. I remember then how I carried him, that pregnancy, the promise, the wonder, the happy overwintering.