I stopped for a flock of crows this morning on my drive to work, half a dozen or so of them, pecking at roadkill. In the slow way of November, the birds contemplated me and then turned back to their feast.
For a moment, I got out of the car, just me and the crows and the morning too cold to be damp. Eight crows, two yellow lines, one dead tree, and all that snowy field and sky around me.
Driving, I had been thinking of the poet Lucille Clifton, who wrote the saddest poem I’ve ever read, “The Lost Baby Poem.” The poem that needs no commentary, nothing further.
Clifton wrote about sorrow, but plenty more, too. She advised, “You might as well answer the door, my child,/the truth is furiously knocking.” It’s a line I’ve returned to over and over in my life, one of my guiding stars. This November morning, cawing crows opened my Subaru door.
We’re deep in the season of darkness now, night so thick at 5PM I could hide my hands in it. At work this morning, my daughter texts me news of a murder-suicide in a nearby town. The deaths occurred this morning while my youngest and I were eating granola and yogurt, talking idly about Monday morning.
I’ve lived in Vermont darn near forever, and this marks the fifth murder in a handful of weeks. While my daughter and I cook dinner we talk about violence in Vermont — domestic, and not. There’s nothing I can say to change any of this. But I tell my daughter she’s part of the world, now frequently without me or her older sister. In my own mother speak, I remind her that she has her own part in the world, too.
I step out in the morning dark to get kindling from the barn. I’m grateful for many things, but a hot hearth is high on my gratitude list. The sprawling cats concur.
In the night, snow has fallen, a cold wind blows, and winter has spread out her garments. She’s here to stay.
At Thanksgiving, my daughters asked why I didn’t stay in the Pacific Northwest, where I went to graduate school. One reason was that I missed the drama of New England’s seasons. On this late November morning, I remind myself of this love for Vermont, that the need for winter’s stillness and beauty is driven as deeply into my body and soul as May’s blue squill around my house.
Here’s a link to a radio show at WDEV in Waterbury, Vermont, I did with my former US Attorney Christina Nolan, who appears in Unstitched— a woman I greatly admire.
A number of years ago, my friend and I were sitting near a lake watching our little kids play in the sand when somehow our conversation drifted to fear. I began rattling off what I feared — and the list was long. My friend had her long list, too.
Years later, my list might be shorter, but the items are all darn scary.
I wake in the dark as our cats creep around the downstairs, fearful and entranced about my visiting brother’s dogs. Over the millennia of human history, countless people have lived — and are living — through periods when the world around them was crumbling apart or being blown to smithereens. On this Thursday morning, here’s a few lines from a recent poem in the The Writer’s Almanac.
Wishing happiness to all of you, in whatever way the light finds you….
….. who checked me out countless times with my bags of cat litter and chocolate chips and toilet paper and English muffins. We always did the usual ‘good afternoon’ or ‘have a nice day’ kind of thing. Then one day, she tugged the sleeves of her sweater over her wrists and said, “Seven years I’ve worked here, and they’ve never fixed that cold air coming down on me.”
Come the pandemic, and she’s disappeared. Where you are now, I have no idea, but, gracious, woman, I hope no cold breeze dumps down on you all day.
… Rereading Ann Patchett in anticipation of her upcoming book: “I could understand why Gautama had to leave his wife and child in order to find the path to nirvana. The love between humans is what nails us to this earth.”
The waxing moon is especially cream-hued tonight, strutting her mysterious beauty. No nirvana here, but plenty. Plenty.
… what that story [of Jesus parting the Sea of Galilee] is trying to tell us is simply that in times of storm, we mustn’t allow the storm to enter ourselves; rather, we have to find peace inside ourselves and breathe it out.”
I would add to this — do this through cooking or writing or knitting or painting the living room wall. Hands, hearts, and minds.