Pink Infatuation

A friend of mine once said she aspired to have everything in her house handmade. She’s a potter, and we were sitting at her table, set with plates she had made, and clay mugs she’d swapped with potter friends. A pink Hello Kitty plate was at her daughter’s place.

I love this goal — and that she didn’t give her daughter any grief about the Hello Kitty infatuation.  Her daughters — teenagers now — have left the Loving Pink realm, like my own 19-year-old, once so ecstatic about pink overalls my mother had mailed her.

Pink, she told her friend with reverence, lifting the bib.

We are now out of the Loving Pink realm, too.

writing is rebellion. Art takes place when we’re unable to accept the boundaries we inherit, when we’re compelled to reimagine what others are willing or even eager to receive.

— Kim Brooks, Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear



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Mid-October Garden

In the garden, fat Brussels sprouts nestle against the stalks. My daughter says two words when she sees them: With bacon.

While the light funnels away — every single day, a little less — the remaining flowers in my garden brighten: marigolds, pink and violet hydrangeas, gold calendula, ragged now and past their prime.

None is travelling
Here along this way but I,
This autumn evening.

— Basho


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October Gardening

In the garden this late afternoon, a slow-moving bumblebee sways on a Mexican sunflower blossom tucked beneath a great sunflower leaf, its tender orange spared from frost. With a knife, I cut broccoli.

Every bit of sunlight we can get, I take — and urge my daughters to take, too.

The trees are throwing their leaves away. This time of year, some trees hold green canopies, while others have already emptied their branches.

Calligraphy of geese
against the sky —
the moon seals it.

— Buson


Gabriela, Wheelbarrow



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Pond Swimming — In October?

Rain moved in overnight, but yesterday was a sultry 80 degrees, the school kids running into the library and standing just inside the door, panting, their faces rosy, sweaty. A grandfather and I stood talking in the doorway. About an hour more, you think, this lovely weather will last? I asked. He laughed.

After work, I swam while my daughter sat on the bank with our friend and her old rabbit, stroking the bunny’s white fur and talking. The pond water — when I thought swimming had ended weeks ago — had an initial flash of cold. Then I swam out where the deep, nearly inky water held me, tepid. The dragonflies are gone. I grabbed fallen, floating leaves.

I knew the sun would set before long. I had chores. My friend was leaving. And yet — swimming, October 10, northern Vermont. Mark that.


#10 Pond/Photo by Molly S.

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When I moved to Vermont, Madeleine Kunin was governor — a particular point of pride for the state. Many years later, as a young mother, I took my small daughter to hear Kunin read at the packed Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick.

Afterward, standing outside on the sidewalk, a female acquaintance remarked unhappily that Kunin emphasized the need for child care and greater economic opportunities for women. I’ve often wondered what my acquaintance wanted instead — this woman whose own family economics were provided by her husband’s salary. Putting bread on our children’s table is neither masculine nor feminine, but the power to determine some tenor of the shape of our lives.

Last night, I heard Kunin, at age 85, speak again — how surprisingly funny and how gracious. At the end, an audience member asked the expected question: what do you think of the world now? Kunin stepped back from the podium and raised her hands, meeting this question with just a fraction of silence, before she answered. Be engaged. Listen. Converse. Be persistent.

At the end, she amended her answer: Make trouble.

Poor privilege white men. Their stranglehold on power is slowly being loosened.

— Madeleine Kunin


Photo by Molly S.

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Beautiful Travels

Reading Daniel Mason’s new novel, The Winter Solider, I’m reminded of first reading Russian novels — Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev — when I was a teenager. How hungry I was for those books — what will these characters do? — in their snow-buried landscapes. Tender green shoots of spring poked through the gritty ice.

This reading mirrors the kind of life I carved out as an adult. Live on a hundred acres of woods, work outside in all weather, pull your toddler along the backroad in the sleet, just because…. Know that where the moon rises above your house is essential. Be afraid; know that the snow and the long-toothed northern cold can and will maim and kill, but how beautiful this world is…..

They were five hours east of Debrecen when the train came to a halt before the station on the empty plain.

— Daniel Mason, The Winter Soldier


Cambridge, Vermont

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The Moral Arc

The fall after I graduated from Marlboro College, I was living in Brattleboro and working at Omega Optical where I crafted tiny round glass disks used as high-tech light filters — a strange and short-lived job for me.

That fall, David Souter was nominated for the Supreme Court, and on NPR we listened to every word of the hearings. A bachelor, Souter lived in Weare (pronounced where), New Hampshire, not far from where I grew up, a little town I knew well. Brilliant and witty, Souter made New Hampshire proud.

That fall, young as I was and newly in love, I rightly considered myself an adult. I walked to the company’s enormous building, not far from where I lived, and whose back doors opened to the weed-flanked railroad tracks, just above the wide Connecticut River. Before the winter, I knew I was unsuited that job and moved on. By the next spring, I was living in a tipi, and then my boyfriend and I packed up our old diesel Rabbit and a rusty Saab and moved west to graduate school.

I was glad to join adulthood, even though, as any young person, I had no idea how difficult that would be, how piercing a price the world would extract for my share of wrongdoings. My teenage daughter once urged me not to take our arguments personally — terrific advice. Step back; breathe. Justice isn’t personal to me, or anyone else, either. Watching her sister’s soccer game yesterday, in a row of women talking about Kavanaugh’s confirmation, I’m still astounded that she’s now one of us, more grownup than teenager, with all that means.

My fury about people is based precisely on the fact that I consider them to be responsible, moral creatures who so often do not act that way.

— James Baldwin


Photo by Molly S.

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