My Thieving Ways

We sleep to peepers’ songs with the windows open, waking in the cool mornings.

The days are so long and light-filled that we’re out late, sometimes with gardening projects, sometimes kicking a soccer ball or just wandering around.

Behind the high school, I discover clumps of bluets about the size of a fist, the tiny light blue flowers with their golden-yolk hearts. With my daughters, I return with an old spoon and a yogurt container. The soil there is harder than I expected. My daughters drift off to the school’s hoop house, in search of a shovel. I turn the spoon around and jam its handle into the earth, prying out spindly roots. I cup them in my palm — three spoonfuls worth of beauty.

A bee
staggers out
of the peony.

—Basho

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Lilacs!

Every morning these days, my daughter and I look to see if the lilacs have opened. Today, today.

Their scent reminds me of some of the best things: early childhood, summertime dinners on the grass, the return of spring.

a scrap of iron–
without fail, menfolk
stop to look

— Uda Kiyoko

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May Magic

I’m reading a solid Vermont novel — Ruth Porter’s Unexpected Grace. Porter’s book focuses on everyday people and actions: a woman weeding her flowerbed before a lung biopsy, an older woman traveling on a train, families who care about each other, sometimes awkwardly as families can be.

At a reading a fairly well-known Vermont author gave recently at the local bookstore,  a nonfiction writer in the audience asked why she wrote fiction. The possibilities, he commented, seem endless.

Maybe.  Maybe not.

Fiction reflects life, and those choices are one of the things I find most interesting about fiction. Which way will the woman drinking diet Pepsi turn? How will her marriage weather the loss of her husband’s job?

“….I was just thinking it would be nice if the stars were aligned in my favor. There is magic and mystery in the world. It’s all around us.” She managed to get it out before she had to cough again.

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Tall Daughters

I ask my daughters if they’d mind going to Burlington on a late rainy afternoon. Heck, yeah. This proposal isn’t like asking a daughter to bury a garden fence to keep the woodchuck out.

Less than two weeks remain before the younger crosses over into age 13, into official adolescence, but, truthfully, she’s already stepped over that line. At 3 and 4, this girl’s favorite dress was a leotard with a ruffled tutu — a little green fairy. Always quieter than her sister, she’s still in the backseat, listening to her older sister and me, talking, talking. But now, she lobbies questions between us, needing to know.

Second time around parenting a teenage girl, my tack has altered: argue less, listen more. My friends with their newborn babies aren’t sleeping much these days, peering into tiny mouths for emerging pearly teeth. Babies are great, but the teenage landscape is when things really begin to get interesting.

An orphaned blossom
returning to its bough, somehow?
No, a solitary butterfly.

Arakida Moritake (1472-1549

 

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Burlington, Vermont

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Sweet Sowing

Merry, merry month of May.

In the middle of the day, I fold my laptop closed and dig in my garden, shoveling away a long rectangular swath of lawn and pitchforking in manure. In May, the grass is emerald with gold coins of dandelions, and the earth is opened-up black, all wiggling worm and grub, potential for a season’s growth. The chickens investigate my wheelbarrow.

Over the cemetery I can see the valley with its greening mountains and the blue trapezoid of the lake held at the far end, glistening.

While I shovel, I think of a line from the movie The Darjeeling Limited my daughter and I have repeated back and forth: We were supposed to be on a spiritual journey, but that didn’t pan out.

How I laughed when I heard that line, thinking it summed up my marriage, and yet the journey spins on. In May, in Vermont, the icy snow that covers my garden has long since melted. The lilacs are near to blooming. A sweet spot at the moment: savor this.

I love the way this country smells. I’ll never forget it. It’s kind of spicy.

— The Darjeeling Limited

 

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Evening Meet-up

With two 12-year-olds and a giant dog cage in my small Toyota, I drove along the dirt roads in Woodbury, in search of the woman who said she had chickens. Ignore the no trespassing sign at the foot of the driveway, she told me, a warning for burglars. That part of the Woodbury is mountainous in the small, Vermont way, with curved hillsides cupping homes, and lots of clear running streams and glacier-carved ponds.

It was nearly dusk, and she was outside, waiting for us. The girls eyed the chickens, who were not yet in their houses. Waiting, the woman showed the girls her fluffy chicks, and then we went inside. Her house had an amazing floor made from stones on the property. While the girls waited quietly, the woman and I talked about her relatives who had been in the area since before the Revolutionary War. She showed us a photograph on the wall of her distant relative in a Civil War uniform with his wife, who must have native blood.

The woman’s house was filled with dusky light. She was one of my people, a small woman, and, standing, we were eye-to-eye. I could feel the girls getting antsy for the chickens, but they were quiet, saying nothing. This woman had raised three sons alone in a mobile home on this property, and then built a house about the time the boys moved on and began their own families, cutting a deal with her ex-husband’s child support arrears for more land instead of the  money he owed.

The girls petted her lovely black lab. I stood listening to the unexpected bends of her life, to an autoimmune disease and the loss of a job, and then, she said, the chickens saved her life. Began her on a new track. In the descending gloaming, we walked behind the coops and visited her new bees. For a moment I guessed she would offer to take us further, up that steep hillside I admired where she and her son cleared a field.

But the girls edged toward the chickens. The hens muttered, stepping slowly into their houses for the night. We took four, driving out through the sound of the clattering peepers.

Morning glories
enough thatching
for this hut.

— Issa

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Egg

A steady May rain turns up the most beautiful things: bits of green leaves on our two pear trees, the slender stems of lily-of-the-valley, gold coins of bright yellow dandelions in the greenest of green grass. Inimitable green.

Years ago, I drove through hayfields rich in dandelions to take my daughter to preschool. She was four when she first called me on the telephone, her tiny voice over those black lines.

Yesterday, while I was at work, my youngest texts me, just a single line: We have an egg.

I stand there for a moment. I’ve propped the door wide open in the library and opened all the windows. A breeze blows through, sweet with spring air, with that mixture of grass that’s both freshly cut and growing, the way May in Vermont flings itself headlong toward full leaf and blossom.

While two little brothers in the library are chatting at me about Goosebumps books — companionably and nicely — I’m thinking of my daughter in our dim barn, with her four chickens clucking and muttering around her, holding an egg in her left hand.

The Pasture

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.
I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.
— Robert Frost
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