Winter is licking our city at last. Snow is falling and the wind is up; teeming clouds of infinitesimal flakes swirl and mount through the air like vast schools of glittering fish or bird flocks that seem guided by a single consciousness. But the wild weather and snow day excitement cannot lift my heart just now. I have to write it to feel for the way forward. If you need coziness and good cheer today, I beg you click away.

On Monday we lost my husband’s godmother, who went more rounds with terminal cancers than anyone dreamed was possible and lived with courage and grace and brazen joy in the face of every difficult day. On Tuesday another beloved person we count as family shared her own diagnosis. The test results flooding in bring black news. Despite her knowledge of the battle ahead and the suffering soon to begin, my friend wakes gleeful at the forecast snow, brimful with the blessings of her life, tender and thoughtful to everyone around her as usual. I know too many of us have felt it, this desperate urge to throw your body between a loved one and the tide, as if you might somehow stop it rising to swallow them. The uselessness you feel because you can’t shelter them from the pain and sickness, because the comforts you can provide seem so peripheral and so puny. (If you’ve lived this, if you can talk about it, will you please tell me what can I do for my friend and her husband as they slog through grim months of treatment? It looks like the full battery of chemo, surgery, and radiation will be necessary.) I thought we’d age together, she leading the way and teaching me how to do it with dignity and delight. I can’t compass the notion that she might not be here. I can’t think of my children growing up without her.

I’m knitting a sock because one stitch after another seems to be the only way I can move through this moment; holding still feels like letting the grief and worry fix me with their yellow eyes so they can creep close and gobble me down. I am trying to imagine how I might grow more like these two women I’ve loved so well, these brave tough incandescent women who knew/know how to knuckle down and live into the world, how to savor its stew of pain and beauty. But it’s a proper blizzard inside and out today.