If I sit still, very still, and quietly, very quietly — so still that I can feel the locket around my neck and so quietly that I can hear my breath — I am aware of the heaviness of the rain. In thousands of individual drops it holds the house to the ground. Like a paperweight.
Years ago, when Daddy grew Vidalia onions, January often found him turning on the irrigation, the fake rain, in front of advancing cold. The dropping temperatures froze the water clinging to the onion plants, providing insulation against what would otherwise have killed the tender stalks. It feels a little like that tonight.
January is a hard month. It is hard because it is cold and rainy and particularly syncopated after all the speed and noise of December. It is also hard because it includes the anniversaries of the deaths of two of my dearest friends. And it is hard because it includes my mother’s birthday, which she no longer remembers.
Yet, I sit, in the stillness and quiet of this January quickly dying, content.
Sandhill is 28 years old. And for 28 years the living room ceiling has leaked. The cedar planks that form a perfect V in the center of the room are stained with Rorschach blots from sudden deluges, three-day rains and successive hurricanes. And despite numerous roof replacements, chimney adjustments and gadget installations, every time excessive water began falling from the sky, I found myself creating a multi-layer patchwork quilt of towels across the living room floor.
Until three days before Christmas when, the towels pressed up against the tree skirt and concerns about drips reaching the lights on the tree making me anxious, I reached my Peter Finch in “Network” moment and, much to the relief and delight of my metal roof-selling nephew, decided that the time had come.
Over a period of three days in January, a crew of three strong and lithe men crowned Sandhill with a new roof. The first time it rained I forgot that I didn’t have to be anxious and kept walking through the living room, running my hand across the wooden floor checking for dampness. The second time I felt the knot in my belly start to rise at the sight of the gray cloud and then remembered I didn’t have to worry. And tonight?
Tonight I sit in the darkness broken only by a lamp and I think. Think about what rain sounds like on a metal roof. Think about how hard it is to let go of the triggers that have been our companions for years. Think about the paradox of freezing plants in order to save them.
Is that what January, every single January, does to me? For me? It freezes me in order to save me. It calls my attention to the difficult things, away from the many distractions outside my doors and toward the tiny cells multiplying at the heart of who I am. Then it insulates the tender shoots against the harshness of the winter.
January is a hard month. Long and cold and hard. And beneath its roof I am warm and safe and dry.