salting this year

On the farm where I grew up, the sky would shatter in the winter. It would drop shavings of frozen, clumps of ice sliver. It would breathe in all the months before and exhale a steady shivering of frost.

The roads would glisten slick, like the walkway outside my front door. And we, the people who tended to the ground, who planned for this — yes, we, who knew the sky knew best– we would make do.

We carried out large bags of salt and shook it all over the ice-layered paths.

The salting gave us a grip. It reminded our feet that the earth was still there, holding steady. It took down a fine layer of the new flooring, and though there were many more layers to go, sometimes just starting is enough.

Here, where I live, we have come to the one year anniversary of the pandemic. We had no idea then how much we would have to grieve, how many days we would have to count.

Like most people, I have accumulated a collection of era-defining experiences. I have swabbed my own nostril for an at-home test, sat in a rented theater room with just two other friends, drank a cocktail in a can outside in the street, had a blood draw in a drive-thru, attended funerals and job interviews through zoom. I have masks that match my outfits, and a favorite hand sanitizer now.

Like some others, I have reflected on the familiarity of such a time. Fellow disabled people– we who have always had to have someone else pick out our tomatoes and deliver our groceries, we who have always had to measure the risk of public spaces. Fellow formerly incarcerated people– we who sometimes find a calm in the safety of a too-small space, we who know what it is to stay inside for an indeterminate amount of time and make do. Both those groups, who know what it is to depend on the seemingly fickle whims of the state.

It has been a whole year, and as the anniversary passes, I listen to the memories shared.

There was a quote by André Malraux I heard a few times in various grief groups: “You have not come back from hell with empty hands.”

And I know — believe me, I know — there are shinier hells and deeper hells and darker hells than this. And though I know this icy winter of a season isn’t done with us yet, I understand the need to recognize this era. To declare a full year complete and reflect back.

Anniversaries are a salting to the grief that tries to upend us, the shock that we simply aren’t built to tread without our tricks.

Time will slip right by us if we do not lift the bag up on our shoulders and carefully shake our memories and fears and hopes all over the earth, and if this time slips by– if this hell freezes over before we reflect, what will we have taken with us?

“You have not come back from hell with empty hands.”

The truth is, we have not all come back, and no amount of banana bread or lawyer cats can rebuild the losses of this time.

Sitting with this truth is heavy.

I remember walking on ice with a bag of salt on my shoulders. The weight and skid. Sometimes the work we do, the fear we face, is just enough to take us one more tiny step forward.

Sometimes the things we carry are supposed to leave an indent on your shoulders so you remember how you made it through. Muscles outlive the struggle.

The memory of the weight outlives everything.

“You have not come back from hell with empty hands.”

The truth is, we have found our way to new types of joy, found new ways to deal hope to each other, found new heroes, and acknowledging those things is a start to the return of stable ground beneath our feet.

We always find a way to move through seasons and challenges we simply weren’t built for, and acknowledging the strength of human resilience might be our way to spring.

Sometimes just starting is enough.

15 thoughts on “salting this year

  1. THIS…. “Fellow disabled people– we who have always had to have someone else pick out our tomatoes and deliver our groceries, we who have always had to measure the risk of public spaces.” Yes!
    Isolation is not new to so many of us. So beautifully put! I love the way you give voice to both the seen and the unseen.
    Wishing you a beautiful day 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, there’s so much preventable loneliness in the world of disability. I hope one thing we’ve filled our hands with is the idea that we can be more accessible that we ever thought possible. 💕 Wishing you a lovely day as well. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I appreciated this post deeply. The one year mark is heavy for me, I like the image of carrying the salt bag, one I can relate to from my own growing up on an icy farm. How did I miss your farm roots? I don’t think I remember you mentioning it in the five or so years I’ve been reading your writing. I still work for a farm stand, and this past year we have been choosing tomatoes for all our customers, to a wide spectrum of responses. Some have maybe never lost anything, and losing the choosing of their own tomatoes is unbearable. It’s harder to have gentleness to that, and yet you seem to find room for empathy despite coming from experiences of far greater losses than tomatoes. I’m not articulating well… but you are loved.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 5 years or so! How lovely and how fast time flies. I drop small references here and there in writing, but In podcasts, I can’t seem to get through one without saying “I grew up on a farm” 😂

      You articulated wonderfully and kindly, thank you. Loss is loss. There are different breeds but they all hit hard. Even a tiny hell is a hell.

      Plus, in this case, no matter how well one is doing through this, if you live in the US, your country is half a million plus souls lighter. We’re pack animals. We feel that even if we don’t want to, I think.

      Thank you for farming through this, and picking tomatoes. That’s important work and probably makes all the difference to someone. ❤️ You are loved.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a beautiful thoughtful piece Ra. It’s the good and the bad of it isn’t it. We humans are all so resilient, more than we realize I think. And yet that quote, which I’ve not heard before, makes me want to weep (in a good way, in a way that makes me be gentle with myself way) as I think back over the times in my life of hell and see that indeed I did not come back empty handed, but hands full of true gifts.


  4. Hey Ra, This is Sreejit – now Satvamrita. I stayed offline for most of the last year. Glad to see you are still writing beautifully and deeply. Luckily, as I am a cook, I still had a job to come to cooking as people always have to eat, even during quarantine, so I had that to get me through this unusual year. Although here in the ashram it has been nice to slow down. But always praying for you all struggling to make your way in this new world without the built in community that makes things easier for us here. I hope you are well and happy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been thinking of you! Kozo passed. 😔❤️ I tried to email the address I had but it wasn’t good anymore. *hugs* It’s so good to hear from you and know you’re safe and fed. 💕 Things are okay here too. Figuring it out like I always do, a tiny step at a time. 🌸



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