Maple

End of the day, in the gloaming, I’m running up the road. A little bit of snow is falling, and — dare I write this in December? — it’s just nice. That sweet, snowglobe kind of beauty.

In not so many minutes, I know I’ll need to get off this somewhat slippery and icy road before a pickup turns a bend a bit too quickly, its driver maybe distracted by the same things I am, the enchanting serenity of these maples, this field, the light funneling down over the horizon.

I know, too, as I start cooking dinner that I’ll listen to VPR. My listening, or not, has absolutely zero bearing on congressional hearings. I’ll be irked. And yet, I’ll listen, if for no other reason to participate in the dinner conversation at our house.

For for these few moments, though, I revel in the sky, the snow, the crows in the distance flying home, too.

Surely by now there can be few here who still believe the purpose of government is to protect us from the destructive activities of corporations. At last most of us must understand that the opposite is true: that the primary purpose of government is to protect those who run the economy from the outrage of injured citizens.

Derrick Jensen

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Hardwick, Vermont

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The Mind of Winter

Poet Wallace Stevens wrote: One must have a mind of winter/To regard the frost and the boughs/Of the pine-trees crusted with snow.

In northern Vermont — thus far — the winter has been cold and dark and ice, scant on snow. When the sun is out, we lift our faces, as if our bare cheeks can gather the light like June’s strawberries in our hands.

The mind of winter is the Vermonter’s mind, for sure, for sure — slipping away in the swimming and gardening season, returning in late fall.

Each of us in my house is sunk into work and school in ways that seem particularly pleasant — at this time. Keep the house warm, the cats and kids fed, and walk under the stars at night.

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Barr Hill, Greensboro, Vermont

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And So Begins… December

Sun in Vermont’s December? Sunday morning, we discovered perfect snowflakes scattered over the icy ground.

This final month of the year always seems more shut in, filled with post-holiday and pre-holiday and holiday, with snow piling (although more ice than snow here yet), with a warm house and knitting and those sleeping cats. What’s homier than curls of sleeping cats?

It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats.

Dylan Thomas

 

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Note the washed-pale blue: save for sunrise and sunset, that’s about it for color.

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Taxi Driver

I’m at the gas station, in the far back, where the light is out, filling diesel cans by the light of my iPhone, when an older woman pulls up and starts talking to me.

Busy, busy, she was at work that day.

As she’s waiting for me to finish, and I’m crouched in the dark, I ask what she does for work. I’m thinking nurse’s assistant. I’m dead wrong. She’s a taxi driver. She’s taken people to Chicago, to Boston, and then everywhere around the state. To the grocery store, or south to Bennington. For years, she had been a long-distance semi driver, so the taxi gig is a kind of retirement, keep-her-busy kind of gig.

I’ve never met a taxi driver in rural Vermont, as common an occupation as that might be elsewhere.

Peat moss from Canada, she tells me. By this time, she’s taken my phone and lights my way. Blustery, she tells me. But that doesn’t stop her from wiping off my cans with her rag and lifting them into the back of my car, saying my hands must be cold.

I offer to hold the light for her, but she sends me on my way. She’s left the hatch of her vehicle open, so her side of the gas pump is relatively well-lit. She knows her way around a dark gas station; she knows what she’s doing.

Last of November. I drive home to where my daughters are heating Thanksgiving leftovers in the oven.

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One Day, Otherwise

A few drops of rain graced the very end of our walk yesterday afternoon. Later, our kitchen redolent with baking pies, rain hammered on the roof.

I hope all my readers have many, many things to celebrate. Oddly enough, on this day I’m mostly grateful to be in a place where I can be grateful. My life has not always been that way — or, more accurately perhaps, I’ve been pressed at times where I could think only from here to there, and not have the luxury of gratefulness. I know I’m not alone in that. Gratitude, it seems to me, needs not material or financial space (although those things certainly help), but the spiritual space to be simply in the here, the now.

One of the very loveliest gratitude poems is Jane Kenyon’s Otherwise. Here’s a few lines on this holiday morning.

I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

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And, more happiness in a world with such dear creatures, my beloved hardworking cat.

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First Sledding

In the dusk, children screamed as they sledded down a hill — so screechingly at first I worried they were injured. When I stepped around the garage, though, two children in  raggedy snowsuits were laughing at the foot of a very short hill. The kids ran up, holding orange sleds.

I know I posted this last fall — but, again, here’s one of my favorite poems.

Although there is the road,
The child walks
In the snow.

— Murakami Kijo

And here’s my big kid, taking a holiday photo and begging me to please, try to smile!

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Red Star

I wake from what I suppose is a writer’s nightmare. Inexplicably, someone has altered the pages of the book I’m writing to emoijis — gibberish where I’ve labored so long to string together sense and beauty.

Mid-November, and the nights are long. We play Battleship, Boggle, Trouble. The library books pile up around the couch.

This time of year, I’m reminded of Vermont’s great extremes. By five, dark has set in fully. In summer, we’d be thinking of heading for an after-work swim. Walking yesterday, I thought of the wild forget-me-nots sprinkled along that roadside in summer. White, pale blue, gray, black: winter’s palette. Inside, we bake phyllo with salty cheese and roasted red peppers — not so much habit or tradition, but simply the thing to do.

just when I think nothing is left alive

the bare branches of the trees
rise up, beckoning

— Marilyn Krysl

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