Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Winter's Farewell Embrace

So winter has definitely been one of the lead characters in our lives over the past few months, and it certainly starred in the scenes immediately preceding our move to Africa. Indeed, two big storms – dubbed “snowmaggedon” in the D.C. area – hit during the week we left. Though at the time, we were not so certain we were going to be able to leave…

The stress of the move was bad enough, from getting the data work done on my dissertation before we left (crucial to completion of my PhD research since I could not take the data with me), to packing out the house and both our offices, to Kathy getting all her work done for her previous position with Peace Corps and successfully completing her Overseas Staff Training all at once. In fact, I had at least two meltdowns that I can recall, one of which I am fairly certain had Kathy concerned that I had done some sort of permanent damage. Bad enough, indeed.

Then came the snow. And it did not stop. Three feet in two storms over five days. Under any other circumstances, I would have loved it. The city shut down. The federal government closed for four and a half days. So Kathy and I kept looking at the snow on our street and thinking, “There is no way a moving truck is going to get to us through that!” And we were almost right.

But the last day, after digging out and digging out again, during which we somehow found time to have one last lunch with my sister, Joanne (who drove quite some distance despite the road conditions), and got most of our packing done even though we were both sick all week, the truck arrived (early and without calling so we were caught more than slightly off guard and unprepared for a house full of kindly strangers asking us what went in storage and what did not).

And the runways at Dulles were clear. Thus, somehow, we left our DC house on schedule, had a night at the Brookland Inn, including dinner with our dear friend Dahlia, who drove us to the airport the next day (after we scrambled to perform a last minute cleaning of the aforementioned house), and we flew to Maseru (via Johannesburg). Which is whereI had thought the adventure would begin.

Winter’s Farewell Embrace

We are bound for Africa this week but
The snow keeps falling, we do not even know
If the moving truck can manage our street,
If our plane will fly. But the wind is pushing
Against our windows, and the weight of
The snow is threatening our porch roof.
We need all our strength to hold onto
Each other. But I am shoveling and throwing
Until there is nowhere left to pile what I am trying to clear,
And my wife is just trying to get to the store
In the bright red ski pants and jacket she got
Twenty years ago, pushing through the drifts
Where intersections are indistinguishable
From yards. We have packing to do
And stress to ease out, but we are too tired
To handle either well. Afterward,
When the movers have arrived unannounced, and early,
And thrown our earthly possessions into boxes and gone
With only a thin copy of a simple form to say
It will all come back to us, half a world away,
But no one can say exactly when – we collapse
In an empty house that needs cleaning
Before we can fly away, so that
When we land we can begin anew.


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