I walk onto the lake at night when it is so dark that the stars seem bright to the touch.
The lake is frozen and I imagine the life underneath is frozen, too.
Cartoonish fish with air bubbles coming up from their mouths and ferns caught in mid sway.
Maybe even an otter stuck half in and half out – able to watch his world freeze over but unable to do anything.
The sparrows and hawks that fly, the bears who walk by do not a thing.
The lake doesn’t concern them. They have their own winters to survive.
What of me?
I travel barefoot in my nightdress, wanting to reach the other side of the lake, but my feet stick to the frozen surface and the going is slow.
I catch the eye of the wolf who must have been caught in the midst of sipping from the lake.
With her face half entrapped by the ice, she is fully aware and afraid of me, my skin shing silver-white in the starlight, her fur black as night.
She thinks I mean her harm and I feel her fear thick in the air as butter.
I think to break the ice – set her and the world under our feet free but her eyes bid me away.
We would both drown if I did and while I know she has a limited supply of strength and endurance left for our frozen world, I am cold and do not wish to drown for her.
I am fully topside, after all, and only need trudge back home to my fire to escape the cold.
This I do and my winter moves away from me while hers maintains its visceral grip on her life.
Mine will still consume me even though I believe my walls protect me from the fate of the wolf.
But my spirit lives and dies with hers.