Snowbound Night After Making Puppets

I was driving home after a sculpture class. The sky was blue-black and deep, the way it is in winter, and there was a full moon. A few whisps of thin cloud; no visible stars, because of city lights. The world was frozen, cloaked in what we routinely call white, although it isn’t white, not really. It would be more accurate to create new categories and call it “pale-bright”, or merely, “radiant”. It’s beautiful under the streetlights and the moon and the shadows are bitingly sharp and those are definitely blue and the waters of the Ottawa River glisten black and dangerous wherever they burst away from the snow-covered ice that can never fully lock them in, no matter how hard it tries. There are colored lights on the trees in the public gardens along Wellington Street. They stab the surrounding dark with their sharp colors: indigo, emerald, ruby. I’m alone on the unploughed road and I drive slowly in deep snow and it’s silent, or almost silent, as silent as it gets in the city.

I notice what I’m feeling.

Once, in grade nine, walking alone to the bus stop for school, I was surprised by a kind of warm lightness in my chest, something I’d never experienced in all my life before.

What is this? I wondered.

And then, prompted by something I’d read in a book, I understood.

This was what people meant when they referred to “happiness”.

I felt the same thing now.

Back then, the feeling was transitory and strange. Why it visited me, like some unseen fairy godmother, or the brush of an angel’s wing, I don’t know; and if she ever returned to that lonely boy, I don’t remember. Now, an old man, I was more accustomed to that feeling.

But just the same, I noticed it, that snowbound night. And I understood that I always felt that way, driving home after art class, making puppets.

BookA Printer's Son