I'd like to go down to the river on such a day, vanilla day frosted over with snow and a quiet blue sky. Clumping through puddles and climbing over the rail fence with numb, tingling hands until there's the river, winding sheet of ice gleaming between the bare skeleton trees. And I'd kick off boots and pull on skates and let loose. What a sight. Me in my overstuffed jacket, rainbow gloves, arms outstretched like some awkward scarecrow because I've never done this before, laughing, tottering by the curving bank, a sudden glide that sends up a fine spray of ice, eyes screwed up against the blinding white sun, laughing still.
I didn't know then that the water was frozen over only three and a half inches thick. There was shouting and laughing and you calling to me to be careful and I didn't hear the ice creaking under my blades. I sailed triumphantly to the opposite bank and sprawled on the hard-packed earth. Come along, I urged. It's easy.
But you knew. The minute you'd step down, it would give way under your uncertain feet, huge chunks crumbling around you, pulling you into the bitter dark water. You knew. And you couldn't come. So, petulantly, I left you there and went off on my own to explore the woods. Later, I decided, before a roaring fire, I would tell you about all that you had missed and demand that you come. Next time, you must come along.
Now the winter is gone. Slow waves go crashing down the river, breaking the last floes of ice, heaving against submerged boulders. I still cross the water for the sake of the newly green woods, the smell of moss, the swallow song. I come alone. The river unfroze, but did not allow you across. Me, I knew I would be safe.
I come alone. And it doesn't surprise me anymore that the woods and the sky and the smoke-tinged mountains are just as I had once found them. Unchanged. Glad to be mine.