Signs of Life

January comes to an end. It makes me think of crooked teeth, this difficult month. Winter in rack and ruin. Our skating canal lopped off at the knees by freezing rain. Snow thawed and refrozen a dozen times. Walking a punishment and Ottawa no city for old men.

A week ago we were in Toronto to see our daughter and we went for a walk through the Distillery District, enchanted by the momentary sunshine and all the old brick and stone buildings converted into studios, workshops, arts offices. I bought a completely unnecessary dress, a black, cocktail affair, and heard my late friend Rhoda say into my ear: You are out of control.

I bought a hat.

We returned home by train and I went back to the second volume of Samuel Beckett’s letters. I love his gloomy company. His wryness, tenderness, openness. His combativeness and considerateness. His poetry.

Beckett. The weekly dose of “Downton Abbey.” Drinking wine by the fireplace with friends. The lengthening light. My husband’s ever-hopeful despair about the canal and the world. My brother’s admiration of my mother. My son’s independence. My daughter’s determination.

It’s a month that demands strength of character, January. Nevertheless, good riddance, as my father-in-law used to say of his ex-daughters-in-law.

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