Sunflower Songs

Beneath a clutter of last winter’s sweaters and board games, I discover a few poetry books. We’ve lived in this house for two years (and three summers of gardens). This weekend has been tidying-up chores, inside and outside.

The garden flowers sing their holy colors hard, hard, these days — pink cosmos and zinnias, that tangle of nasturtiums, the ever-present small beings of marigolds, and the sunflowers — without whom Vermont autumn is unimaginable.

…We did not come to remain whole.
We came to lose our leaves like the trees,
The trees that are broken
And start again, drawing up on great roots;
Like mad poets captured by the Moors,
Men who live out
A second life….

— Robert Bly, from “A Home in Dark Grass”

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Mooncrazed

Walking beneath the full moon last night, my younger daughter remarks how quickly the moon rises. Our conversation winds into the complexities of the moon phases, and I finally I admit I just don’t know the answer, but my father would.

Although we’re wearing jackets and jeans, the evening’s particularly warm for fall, the moon creamy and luscious. In the dark, flying geese overhead honk.

I mention something about “heavenly bodies,” and — despite my vehemence that this is, indeed, legitimate, these heavenly bodies — my daughters insist that’s too weird.

I don’t use my past reply about common knowledge, because my kids now have this kind of common language that might as well be from some remote Amazonian tribe to my ears. Apparently, I’m one of the last humans in their world to know this term “VSCO girl,” although the subtext beneath the so-called VSCOing activities and accessories remains a little vague to me. Likewise, when I shared some historical lore about the preppy movement (I notice Amazon has helpfully described the official handbook as facetious in case anyone missed that), I’m met with disinterest until I mention the flipped-up collar trend.

That’s just bad taste, both daughters immediately agree.

In 30 years, the full moon will grace Friday the 13 again. Walking along a dirt road in a light breeze, the girls mention how old each of us will be in 30 years. 30 years, I say, is a long time. And then: I was 30 when I became a mother.

Few lights shine in houses along the road. There’s no one else around. Back at our house, the moon is barely creeping over the horizon. We sit on the back porch while the moon rises, quickly. A luminous, heavenly globe.

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Ordinary Pick-Up

In the high school parking lot, we stand waiting for the kids to return from a soccer game, the air wet and unexpectedly warm. I remember the sunny crispness of that 9/11 morning when my two-year-old tricycled around the kitchen. There’s none of that, in this day alternately soggy or overly warm.

The bus comes, the kids get off, the bus goes, and still we stand there, talking and laughing, with our girls holding their bags now. The coach drives home.

One girl looks around. “It’s just us,” I say. Overhead, the clouds lift and moonlight shines down. We pause, and the mist ambles in.

Want “meaningless” Zen?
Just look — at anything!

— Old Shōju

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Climb a Mountain, Portage a Kayak, Eat Ice Cream

So much for summer. So long, summer, and diving off kayaks and swimming. Hello, autumn.

Here’s a few scenes from exploring glacier-cut Groton, Vermont.

The world? Moonlit
Drops shaken
From the crane’s bill.

Eihei Dōgen

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Cat Companions

While my daughters visit my brother in New Hampshire — eating meat, watching Stephen Colbert, the youngest driving his car — I hole up with my laptop and the cats.

My daughters handled a false oil light in the car, nearly had the hood open on the interstate, and — missing a detour — took a circuitous route along the mountainous Kancamagus Highway. (We’re on the Kanc, my youngest texted me. I wrote back, Why?) On their way home, they stopped and climbed beside a waterfall, then returned for dinner, merry and cheerful.

I clearly (and silently) remember what I was doing at 20 — swapping engines between two VW bugs, wandering lost around Boston. Be safe, I think, just be safe.

Home again, back to school and work tomorrow — as much truth as I need at the moment. Despite what anyone with a twitter account might insist, the truth is whether your family is safe, or not, and no sharpie line can change that.

The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power…. Power is not a means; it is an end.

— George Orwell, 1984

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Drinking Water Beneath the Moon

After a day of one thing after another, we suddenly arrive back at home together — my older daughter returning from a 12-hour shift, my teenager and a friend dropped off by another mother. I stand in the driveway talking with this mother, while my daughter runs in the house and hurries back with a gift of eggs from her chickens.

The little neighbor boys, munching dropped apples, wander over full of pleasure and wonder at seeing us, as only four- and two-year-old are. What are you doing? they ask. An existential question, I whisper to my friend. The teenagers are ravenous and cannot stop talking. Leftovers, I suggest. Put the leftovers in the oven for dinner.

Later, the girls have disappeared into the dark. I leave a sinkfull of dirty dishes and sit outside beneath the crescent moon. The neighbors have put their children to bed. It’s just me and the crickets and that autumn chill creeping in. Over the horizon, the sky turns a dark-turquoise shade of blue to impermeable black. Beneath this, the girls run up the road, out of breath, laughing.

In this autumn,
Why I get older?
The clouds and birds.

—Basho

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Photo by Molly S.

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Days of Afternoon Sun and Insects

Late afternoon, insects — hundreds, nay, thousands — hovered over the soccer field, mixed in with dust motes and seed chaff.

The teenage girl snapping photos for the yearbook said, Gross. The parent beside me marveled at the teeming life. Bat food.

The other parent and I exchanged random bits — traffic in Waterbury, a small write-up in the local paper, why our country can send a man to the moon but hasn’t created decent birth control. Little bits of our own, bat-esque food.

How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage.

— Rilke

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