The world feels fragile and cold right now.
There is a slick of ice coating every blade of grass, every rose branch, the grape arbor and the wisteria vines. The tomato cages look like clear white neon tubes in a glass garden, one lonely tomato plant still green under its coating of ice.
We have warmth, refrigeration, the ability to cook, hot water, laundry, internet, but the snap and pop of falling limbs as trees fail to hold up the extra weight of ice reminds us that these invisible, forgotten morsels of civilization are fragile and easily broken.
Much of my city is without power and will be without power. We’re long-term housing a young man who was homeless for a long time before this, but we’re also opening our house to those without power. The Christmas lights sparkle, the icicles outside sparkle (even the sideways ones) and it feels almost festive.
But there is an ache in my chest. I grieve for Aleppo. I fear for my country. I worry for my family, blood and not, far flung and nearby, whose lives are as fragile as the power lines that keep us warm, but which have failed for so many.
Our heater has two circuits. Most of the time, we use a 5k element which costs much less to run, but sends lukewarm air through the house. It keeps us at 65 degrees but it’s a cold heat. We bundle. We layer. When that fails to maintain the temperature, we flip the other breaker and another 10k element comes on, and the house warms. The temperature reads the same but it feels so, so much warmer. I know we’ll have to pay for it at the end of the month, but right now, my heart needs the warmth. The warmer it gets, the more my chest aches for the people I cannot warm.
I have not sung much this year. Most years I have Christmas music playing nonstop this time of year. Choral music. Music of a faith I moved away from so many years ago, but which still sometimes feels like that problematic family you love despite their flaws. This year, my voice fails. There is ice everywhere and I am afraid that if I try to warm my heart with song, it will shatter.
I think I might have helped people live this year. But I’m not sure and I don’t know, and will likely never really know. It does not feel like enough. The task is larger than I am, and the world is covered with ice and bent to the breaking point.