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   w h y    s t o p    a t    s a l m o n?

--- J E N N I F E R   S N E A D

        (for Audrey)
                                                                Where sits the Soul, intense, collected, cool
                                                                Bright as the Skies, and as the Season keen.
                                                                All Nature feels the renovating Force
                                                                Of Winter, only to the thoughtless Eye
                                                                In Ruin seen.
                                                                        - James Thomson, "Winter"

When winter came to the city this year it drove us all to expedients. Thrift of effort: put a hot baked potato in your pocket, it'll do for lunch hours later. Even that is killing two birds with one stone, a no-brainer. The birds were gone from the trees anyway, practicing economies of their own. Tucked under wing and down, somewhere at the core of fragile bones and feathers a heart is beating. Without flight or song. An ethics of conservation: efficiency is warmth, nothing wasted, nothing to spare or share.

Ask the grasshopper: all love a wastrel in summer and spring. Harder, though to seek profligacy indoors, forced there when the weather hardens the air, thwarting expansion, the deep breath. Seal up the house and seek an outlet within, a clever way to use an old thing. Poach a salmon in the dishwasher, make a strainer of a stocking. Household hints are born of making do. It'll have to do, goes the old song, until the real thing comes along. Don't miss the point, sitting and waiting for spring to pull up at last and blast its horn, dreaming of thaw, and running down the stairs bare-legged, in a light dress, to the convertible at the door, a tanned Prince to do the driving.

Necessity, we're told, is the mother of invention. Poor thing, she never asked for it, but diligent saw the painful birth through. Years later, the child grown and making its success in the world, the stories they told made it sound inevitable, desired, even. Until she believed them herself, and believing, knew her own power.

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