Robin Songs

Certain Saturdays at my library the parents arrive with their babies, the little ones dressed up in their cutest outfits — fox prints, flowered rainbows, little ears on hoods.

The enthusiastic parents are as likely to talk about politics or soil chemistry as teething and sleep patterns.

They are all so new, parents and babies alike, that I’m a little awed, a bit overwhelmed at times, just by their sheer niceness.

My soul is not new, ragged and hardworn like the leather on my favorite pair of boots — been around. I mean this entirely without judgement, as I expect 19 years into parenting, these folks will be a bit ground down, too — although likely just as lovely.

And yet…. it’s spring. While the crocuses haven’t yet bloomed by our house, the avian life is bursting. Herons, turkey vultures, redwing blackbirds. Robins sing in a maple, a pure and unadulterated melody of beauty — no past, no future, simply there.

What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.

—Issa

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Photo by Molly S.

 

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Kid and Her Cat

Whether the sun will ever appear in the Northeast Kingdom appears a matter of faith. I know the sun will return, likely soon, likely tomorrow, that long days of warmth will quickly melt the snow in the rose bed and bring those tiny grape hyacinths to blossom, but in the meantime….

And then: how could a girl making egg rolls with her cat cutely observing not renew my faith?

Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.

— Madeline L’Engle, Walking On Water

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Art For The People

What I might lamely describe as rain and the middle school girls laughingly referred to as moistiness, we stopped at the two painted silos. Beautifully painted with agricultural scenes, these two silos stood empty by the side of Route 15 for years.

I walked through a puddle-ish field. The girls, impetuous, ran.

I’ve been aching for weeks now for some brightness of color — and here it was — art transforming the landscape.  Around the back of the further one was a barred owl I hadn’t seen. The girls wandered over cement pad around the silo, talking about what might have once been here.

Four more cars had parked around mine. We took one last look and headed off into the mist and rain — the moistiness — again.

In art, either as creators or participators, we are helped to remember some of the glorious things we have forgotten, and some of the terrible things we were asked to endure…

— From Madeline L’Engle’s Walking on Water

 

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Running Away

James Joyce’s “The Dead” is one of my favorite short stories, with that remarkable line about falling snow general all over Ireland. In my corner of Vermont, these days, the sentiment generally is enough with the snow for this year. April: season of rain, of snow and ice and, somewhere, beneath all that, struggling green.

I stopped in at the Woodbury school, leaning against the foyer wall while a man who grew up on a farm in the area told me the red-winged blackbirds reminded him of childhood. When he snuck away from farm chores, he headed down to the creek where those dark birds with their signature crimson mark sang.

Ridiculously visually inclined, I rely too heavily on my vision: really, as all my photos attest, the landscape here is yet the monochrome of winter. I’m wrong about this, of course, although I won’t point to any sign of spring at my friend’s request. Too cruel, she says, when sleet falls.

And yet — dumping coffee grounds around blueberry plants, fingering their branches and imagining small, perfect white blossoms, I then close my eyes and listen to the birdsong all around, their rising, sweet melodies.

I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil…

— Louise Glück

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Woodbury, Vermont

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Succor

When I was twenty-eight and living in a hunting camp with my husband, I read Ernie Hebert’s The Dogs of March. The building was heated — well, we attempted heating — with a barrel stove designed for coal. The little insulation in the walls had been gnawed to just about nothing by mice. But this isn’t a story about how young I was then, how naively starry-eyed for so very long, but my first introduction to that word. I was so innocent then I thought the word was out-of-place in that novel.

Much later, my daughter’s kindergarten teacher suggested families acquire the habit of repeating the same family walk, no matter the weather. We had already established this, and likely because my husband and I had walked all through our childhoods. Even now, in a different house, one of the first things the girls and I did — and unconsciously — was try different walks. Where’s a better view? A running creek?

Today, I realized one of our walks has been downtown Montpelier and around the state house — again, in every kind of weather — and in the enormous crowds at the 2017 women’s march.

Walking is succor, a lifting up and an assistance. A widening from the narrowness of ourselves, a reminder of sky above, the eternal steadiness of the earth beneath our feet. The robins nesting in the maples on the state house lawn. Nearly 13 summers ago, on hot July and August days, I nursed my baby beneath those maples while the 6-year-old ate cookies and ran barefoot on the grass.

One repeated the same old mistakes. Each of us has a blind spot in his thinking that defeats him time and again against all teaching and experience and pain.

— Ernest Hebert, The Dogs of March

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Montpelier, VT, April 15

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A Word About the Garden: Sign of Spring, Hardwick, VT, #10

Robins land in my garden — how close these songbirds swoop to my hands curiously digging in leaf mulch for the first green bits of garlic, the sage greening at a few unlikely ends.

The garden at our former house spread enormously, surrounded by buckwheat field and forest, the woods spreading unbroken over Woodbury Mountain, territory of moose and black bear, bobcat. The songbirds, leery, remained at a distance. Always, at that house, I sensed a tension between domesticity and the wild, my garden the sometimes porous buffer between human and animal life.

Here, on a sandy moraine with a view of the river, the sweetening bones of Hardwick’s passed souls lying six feet buried beyond the row of lilacs, cultivating this patch of earth will be a different variation of home and wild. We haven’t moved far, but cardinals nest here; at our former house, we had seen only a single, stray, lost red bird.

April showers have fallen for days, and I expect rain to fall for days more. The girls complain, but I think, Let it fall… Water our soil, the knotty clumps of root, deeply, well.

The leaves are fresh after the rain,
The air is cool and clear,
The sun is shining warm again,
The sparrows hopping in the lane
Are brisk and full of cheer…
It is a happy thing, I say,
To be alive on such a day.

— James Stephens, “April Showers”

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Sign of Spring, Hardwick, VT #9

Come what may — more April snowflakes, cold rain, glittery frost in the weeds against the barn — in our corner of Vermont we’ve stepped across the line to spring.

Yesterday, in a chilly rain, my daughters and I peered beneath the pear trees and along the thicket of roses, now merely a brown tangle of prickly vines. But the earth reeked of thaw, of soil melting its cold frozen heart, releasing its mysteries of worm and grasping root.

Thaw begins not with warmth, but with the subtle gradations of less cold. And how darn good our earth smells, breathing.

Sparrow singing–
its tiny mouth
open.

— Buson

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