Duck Joy

My daughter calls two ducks besides the April-fat river Mrs. and Mr. Duck — Out For an Evening Swim.

A brown female the hue of last year’s fallen leaves. The male’s garish, jade head reminds me of the unmistakable hue of Japanese beetles.

Nothing more — nothing earth-shattering — merely those two ducks easing into the muddy river, the frothy current quickly ferrying them around a bend and beyond our sight.

And yet I keep thinking back to that duck couple, a poem in motion, in no need at all of my fond wishes or thoughts.

Don’t say my hut has nothing to offer:
come and I will share with you
the cool breeze that fills my windows.

— Ryōkan


Easter bouquet

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Drop by Drop

This hopeful holiday is paired with tiny spring blossoms — crocuses, grape hyacinths, glories of the snow — and early morning services in the cemetery beside our house.

Yesterday, at Quechee Gorge in the pouring rain, we stop in at the state park visitor center where there’s no one but us and an elderly man behind the counter who lays his glasses on the newspaper and takes his time talking with us and telling us about the trail. When you go under the bridge, he says, you have to stop and look up. The bridge, when we get there, harbors singing birds — a great steel enormous arch over the spring-wild Ottaquechee River, so far down this rocky channel.

We walk further to the dam, where the water roars. The two younger girls are afraid, holding back from the edge. The rain has stopped, with a few sprinkles of sunlight pushing through the mist. Water: so much water. Rain, river, the profligate clouds, a few drops in our palms from the first maple buds we touch: drop by drop, water cutting through stone.

Awakened, I hear the one true thing —
Black rain on the roof of the Fukakusa Temple.

— Either Dōgen


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Where We Are Now

My daughter, nearly 14, criticizes most photos I take of her, although digital image is proliferate around these kids.

On the morning the crocuses bloomed, the garlic emerged, and the chickens trundled around the side of the barn, girl and trampoline.

Look very closely:
only impermanence lasts.
The floating world, too, will pass.

— Ikkyū Sojun


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Return From Hibernation

On this unsurpassable, sunny, snow-melting April afternoon, I prop open the library door and stand on the walk. My patrons — a teenage boy, a near retirement age woman — stand there with me, the three of us collectively thinking, what the fuck?!  about this winter — as if a months-long temper tantrum has just passed by.

The school field is still a foot-rich with snow.

Later, as the evening cools, I walk through the crusty patches of remaining snow behind the house, discover there’s a patch of the garden open where I may plant my pea seeds.

I’m back in the cemetery, in my own sacred spot in this town. From the crest, I see the Dollar General with its faux brick and Woodbury Mountain, where bear live. Someone in the trailer park nearly concealed in a hollow is burning something, and smoke rings the mountain’s base. Overhead, a hawk catches an air current so fine the raptor sails out of my sight without a single flap of its wing.

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

— Eihei Dōgen


spring kid crafts

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After Unraveling the Sweater, Not the Mistake

I’ve been knitting the same three balls of yarn over and over in different patterns for months now — perhaps a silly amount of time. I’ve knit half a vest, decided the shaping was off, abandoned that vest, begun a sweater whose gauge I never measured correctly, unraveled that and began again.

Sometimes at night, as I say good night to my daughters, I wonder about this day we’re closing our eyes to — and maybe this illuminates nothing more than my own crazy mind — but that day’s gone, over.

So many of my parenting days when the girls were young, I greeted the night with relief — the chance to close my eyes and be still. But there’s no re-dos on life, no taking apart and casting on again. That’s obvious maybe — that my life is not a ball of yarn to knit and knit — but those obvious things can be so difficult.

Hence, this early morning, gifted with a few more inches of wet white snow, I’m in my bare feet on the back porch, listening to the wind chimes, for the robins’ first clear notes of the long day ahead.

...It is no surprise 
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing...

From Jack Gilbert’s “Horses at Midnight Without a Moon” — a short spring poem well worth the read…


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Everyone was outside today. In all her golden beauty, Spring returned. I left my library door open, with a few patrons in charge, and walked down the dirt road to post a sign about state reps coming to visit the library in a few weeks.

The melodies of blackbirds followed me.

Rapture, as near as can be…. all afternoon, my nearly 14-year-old daughter and I were out, in a day so suddenly hot.  Yes, she’s a teen and wonders why I gnaw the edge of my thumb, there’s blue paint on the edge of my t-shirt, and is possible that I’ve shrunk? I say the word necklace with the wrong intonation of vowel. The knees of my jeans are stained, possibly with coffee.

And yet, on this particular day, I can see clearly how strange a creature I am in her eyes — who is this strange woman and how did she birth me? Likewise, I wonder, who is this miraculous not-girl and not-woman, and how did I birth her?

For the moment, though, there’s this afternoon, there’s just the two of us — as much rapture as I’ll likely ever deserve in this life.

We must risk delight….
We must admit there will be music despite

— Jack Gilbert, “A Brief for the Defense”


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Bearing Up

I’m nearly sure to lose our household bet of what date the garden will be freed of snow — our variation of “ice out” on the lakes. I’ve picked Monday, April 15, both tax day and the anniversary of Lincoln’s death.

April’s the season of running water in Vermont, the carrying off of snow to Lake Champlain. Nature’s licked us — once again proving the futility of competition, industrial revolution notwithstanding.

On our evening walk up a nearby dirt road, snowmelt reveals a winter’s worth of Bud light cans. We see three deer, maple trees stitching together the sky and the great hayfields brown and drying in the spring breezes. Spring, going about its business.

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.
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