Dirty Hand

I don’t want to wash it.

It feels like the first dirt I’ve ever felt, the best colour to mark my lifelines, the right thing to celebrate. Nine months into this pandemic, my face craves the rain and my palm, when it hits the ground to break my slide down a wet, woodsy slope, stings with pleasure. Finally, something other than goopy medicine meant to kill everything it touches. When I stop to catch the view, my blood sings with thanks and the mud tightens and dries on my hand; as if it’s a first kiss, I promise not to wash it off.

But soon, I am down at lake level, and the jade expanse beckons me and my hands, and we go. The water isn’t December cold; if the sun was more consistent today I might even wade in. I have friends who ocean swim all winter, and swear by it, but I am too much in love with summer, with that kind of pleasure, the easy kind. I carry on, along muddy trails, find roots and rocks to keep me from sinking.

Am I sinking? No more than anyone, less than most. I miss my people, I miss my rituals, I miss an easy world. But I have had it good, so good, all in all, and a temporary blip like this won’t get me. My three-years cancer-free date has come and gone with little fanfare, other than a private celebration.

I take photos of strange stalagmite-like fungi, of moss paths, interlacing as they grow skyward, of rain circles on the lake’s surface, of a tree decorated with ornaments and photos of dearly departed dogs. I pick up a fallen Fir bough, intending to take it for a wreath, smell dog piss on it and find another, resting where the pee can’t reach. I cover my boughs with my jacket and walk back to the car in case the wrong, official eyes happen to see.

This is the most reckless thing I’ve done in months. It feels amazing.