Titles by Kij Johnson are available for purchase online

Jim Gunn got the New York Times obituary he deserved, and I cried when I saw it. I haven’t really cried much for Jim, though it’s only been two months since he died. I feel his loss, especially on Saturday mornings, every time I write, and every time I turn on the oven (the result of making so many cinnamon rolls for him over the last year) — but most of the time, it’s a wistful sadness and gratitude for my special relationship with him. The obituary made me cry a little because it was a sort of validation: he really was that wonderful. He changed more than me.

With the obituary in mind, I went over to his house yesterday to pick up his mail and check on the house. Kevin’s over there a lot, but I haven’t been so much since Jim’s cat Annie was adopted and went to her new home. But it is bitterly cold, and Kevin wasn’t sure he’d make it over. One more time, I walked through the silent rooms, truly silent now, without even Annie’s breath moving the air. I sat in the chair I sat in so many times for Saturday breakfasts, and I told him what’s been going on, these last two months: my writing, class starting, the obituary, the cold, our cats, my mom, vaccines. I asked him to tell me the story about his childhood summers in Girard again, though he of course did not. I asked how his writing was going. I picked up his mail and told him what was there. I cried a little more. Grieving takes a while.

The cold is so deep here (2 above; it’ll be 12 below tomorrow night — in Kansas!) and I worry about all my squirrels and birds. I am unwilling to walk in the little woodland behind the house right now for fear of finding frozen animals fallen from the trees. All I can do is keep throwing out food and make sure the water doesn’t freeze over, but it seems so little. It’s five more days before nighttime temperatures get even into the 20s: how many can hang on ’til then? Meanwhile, I sit in my window and watch the jays, which are fluffed out to spherical puffballs, and cardinals who are smooth but twice the size of two weeks ago, and the starlings, who are even gawkier than normal, and the squirrels, seemingly fewer each day, and all eating with desperate ferocity.

I have been teaching (week two is over; 14% of the classes are done) and writing (5k in the last two weeks). We’re at the stage in a book where the ending just keeps receding. I was 15K from the end, then I wrote 5k, and now I am 18k from the end. I am familiar with this exhilarating (yet maddening) stage. I know there will come an end to it. Eventually. But I am eager to get there, now, today, done and then rewriting and then on to the next projects: finish the short story, “Story Kit: The Sphinx,” which I stalled out on last year and decided needed more time to bake.

I am (finally) going to have to get another car, probably in the next six months. Major purchases are always hard for me: I hate owing money; I hate the responsibility of major decision-making. I always fear I will fuck it up. Is this the best possible car for me? Well, Car and Driver thinks so and I generally trust C&D; and it has good maintenance reports. Problem solved, right? Yet I waffle. What if it isn’t? I whine to myself. Cars are so expensive! Maybe I should wait… Wait, wait, wait, and in the end I’ll buy the car anyway, and it will be a good or bad choice, and I’ll pay it off eventually, and it’s not even the biggest thing for me to worry about at the moment. Still, here we are.

What else? I guess I have been struggling more emotionally than I did in the fall, exacerbated by the cold which restricts life even more than it was. I miss going for long walks (even though I was tired of all the walks in a four-mile radius), and I miss seeing people, even momentarily, at a distance. But I’ll feel better when I am not surrounded by so much cold.

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