We awoke to freezing rain, falling sideways on a sharp and persistent wind, and by the time I emerged from the house for chores, the land and everything it bore was rimed in ice. As it does every morning, my right shoulder brushed the outermost branches of the apple tree where I turn toward the pig’s winter quarters, and the sound of the ice breaking upon that soft impact was indistinguishable from the crackling of the clapboard cut-offs I’d used to kindle the fire.
It’s been something less than a real winter – we’ve had more snow than last year, but the thaws have arrived in clockwork fashion, and the latest has been a real doozy. It’s hardly been below freezing for the past week. If there’s an upside, it’s that Penny and I ski every chance we get, fearful that the next thaw will take us down to bare ground. So, in our own paranoid and semi-frantic fashion, we’ve actually skied a good bit, and there is no better tool for thriving in winter than a pair of cross-country skis. A chainsaw helps, too. And a splitting maul.
On Saturday, along with an estimated 14,996 others, we attended the Women’s March in Montpelier. I do not think I have ever been in a crowd so large; indeed, the traffic to and from the event was enough to close the interstate. Bernie showed and did his Bernie thing, and there was wonderful spoken word poetry from a quartet of Muslim girls, and singing, and chanting, and all the things one might expect of such a gathering. I was disappointed that Vermont’s newly-elected governor, a Republican who has gone to great pains to distance himself from Trump, did not make an appearance, but then again, if it’d come down to him or the poetry, I’d’ve taken the poetry every time. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that poetry trumps politics every time, even when poetry is politics. If that makes any sense.
I do not like our new president. I find him boorish and crude, loutish, an embodiment of a particular Americanized concept of power and success, which to me seems rooted in some sort of primal fear I cannot understand. If it weren’t for his newly-anointed position, he’d be almost laughable. Or, as I like to say: It’d be funny. If it were funny. My own fear is primarily the fear I feel on behalf of those who do not enjoy the privilege of my white, American-born, male skin. Though it’s true I fear for myself, too, and my children, and even so many of those who voted for him. Despite his proclamations to the contrary, I do not believe he has our best interests at heart.
In my mind, I distinguish between Trump and those who support him. Which is to say, in most cases, I feel empathy for those who saw fit to cast their ballot his way; I understand the disillusionment, the sense of being forgotten, unheard, misunderstood. Sure, there are surely some who voted for reasons I cannot fathom or even forgive, but I truly believe that those who cast this election as being solely about hate or intolerance are egregiously oversimplifying the matter. There is much more at play, here. Much more.
On the way home from the rally, I commented to my family that if Hillary had been elected, there wouldn’t have even been a rally, and that perhaps Trump’s election will in hindsight prove to be a turning point, a moment of awakening. And that furthermore, perhaps a Hillary presidency would have been more dangerous, if only because it might have enabled us to keep snoozing. I could be wrong about this.
To be sure, the rally was only a moment in time, an almost instinctual reaction to the circumstances. Perhaps its energy cannot be sustained, and we will all retreat to our respective corners to lick our wounds and figure out how best to carry on in this baffling world. But I’d like to think there’s something more behind it than that. Not that we won’t still have wounds to tend; not that the world won’t continue to baffle and bewilder, as it would have no matter who’d been elected. This much is assured.
Still, I’d like to think that the rally we attended – along with the hundreds of other rallies that millions more attended – isn’t merely a silk purse hewn from a sow’s ear, but rather the foundational supports of an entirely new container, a vessel that will carry us much longer and farther than the next four years, one that has room for many more than were present at these rallies, including, even, those who see salvation in our current president.
Now I see that the freezing rain has changed over to snow, and I think that maybe later, if it keeps up, there’ll be a fresh layer upon which to ski. We’ll climb the field across the road and glide into the sugar woods, and I’ll forget about everything else but the feel of my hammering blood and breath and the liquid sound of my skis in the new snow. Yes. That will be real nice.