Now, Somewhere in June….

Despite my covering attempts, the frost nipped the edges of a few of my basil plants. I stood in the garden this morning, chilly in my sweater, staring. Such a small, minor loss.

June in Vermont brings us into the dreamy, gauzy period, of fragrant lilacs and gentle breeze through the new leaves. This year, June brings the nightmare side of the dream world, too, in these days full of tension.

Which way will we go? The days and nights are filled with tension. A nerve-racking doubt wakes me in the night. The windows are closed against the cold. I remind myself that, even in the wake of what appears insurmountable, our individual lives matter, that history has always swept us along, and the only meaningful way forward is step by step.

In a bit, I get up and feed the cats, then pull on my jacket and stand on the porch, watching as the stars slowly fade.

Among a large class, there seemed to be a dependence upon the government for every conceivable thing. The members of this class had little ambition to create a position for themselves, but wanted the federal officials to create one for them. How many times I wished then and have often wished since, that by some power of magic, I might remove the great bulk of these people into the country districts and plant them upon the soil – upon the solid and never deceptive foundation of Mother Nature, where all nations and races that have ever succeeded have gotten their start – a start that at first may be slow and toilsome, but one that nevertheless is real.

Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery

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Photo by Gabriela Stanciu — myself and brother

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15

Fifteen years ago, I walked in the garden in the early morning, on the day I birthed my second daughter.

Those were the years when “peak oil” was the looming fear. Now, the country is burning up, broken in so many ways, with a madman ensconced in the White House.

Last night, while the grownups sat around the campfire talking about COVID and rioting, I watched my daughter and her friends walk through the cemetery, so happy to be together but spread out — “distance, please,” I called — wandering through the lilac-scented evening — these lovely, witty girls — talking and talking, as they jostled, each finding their place.

Here’s a few lines from Anne Sexton’s anti-Vietnam War poem, a love letter to her daughter, “Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman.”

What I want to say, Linda,
is that there is nothing in your body that lies.
All that is new is telling the truth.

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#Porchlife

On the cusp of turning 15 — 15!— my daughter lounges, reading the newest installment in The Hunger Games. Across our short, dead-end street, the little boy digs in his sandy driveway with toy trucks, talking to himself, busy in his world. By the afternoon, his whole family splashes in the kiddie pool.

We are waiting for rain in our quiet corner of Vermont.

The cool breeze.
With all his strength
The cricket.

— Issa

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Childhood, End of Year 14

Three months of glorious summer stretch ahead — we may be (mostly) shut in, threatened by a virus, wondering about the fall and the future — but the apple and lilac blossoms are profuse.

Early mornings and dusky evenings, I water barefoot in the garden, carrying buckets silently, listening. My daughter waits for a game of soccer. When I lean against her trampoline and ask what’s up, she says merely, Nothing.

There’s no arguing here. That nothing encompasses a great deal these days, including the studious picking apart of dandelion heads.

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Wild Discoveries

Walking through the town woods after dinner, listening to what must be one of the loveliest sounds on the planet — the wood thrush — my younger daughter says quietly, “Cub.”

Just ahead, where we were about step into a hayfield, a small black bear wandered, sniffing. We stood for a moment, admiring, then slowly backed away and headed back through the woods.

Walking, we remarked on the proliferation of wildlife we’ve seen this spring — the cub, bald eagles, a den of enchanting fox cubs just behind our house. While the human world is fragmented, the animal world seems to be filling in those cracks, closer and closer.

In Vermont’s May, every day the world appear more and more alive — the leaves unfurled more, and the dandelions higher. Sure, invasive dandelions have their place — or the curse — in the world, but a field of dandelions? Joy — thank goodness for spring.

Dear common flower, that grow’st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold,
First pledge of blithesome May…

James Russell Lowell

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Brief Interlude

At dusk — after eight, as we’re heading, day by day, towards the solstice — I sit in my daughter’s car with the windows unrolled while my girls are in the grocery store, getting just one thing but likely wandering around. The local police chief, off duty, comes out, and he and I talk about the weather and raising kids. For just a few moments, a kind of normalcy descends through that dusk, as I sit there, holding the car keys, my feet dusty from the garden on the dashboard.

The day has been an exquisite, sun-filled day, of work and gardening and dinner on the back porch. Memorial Day Saturday is generally the very busiest day of the year in our town, with a parade and fair and fireworks, but this year, it’s just the two of us in that otherwise empty parking lot, agreeing at the blessedness of this early summer.

The way I see it, I've got a second wind
and on the radio an all-night country station.
Nothing for me to do on this road
but drive and give thanks:
I'll be home by dawn.

 

From “Rest” by Richard Jones

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State of the World, Here

My nearly-15-year-old and I went to Stowe today, so I could be x-rayed for the profoundly awful tooth surgery I had before Christmas last year. We haven’t been anywhere, this daughter and I, for about, oh, a pandemic’s age.

While she went biking, I waited outside, reading beside a blooming apple tree. Afterwards, I walked along the river and through emerald bright fields, and then met her back in town, beside the white congregational church.

For over a decade, I went to Stowe regularly and sold maple syrup and homemade ice cream and root beer at the farmers market, and made what will likely be the most money in my life. Eventually, I just wore out and gave my spot to someone else, and went on to something else….. Stowe’s an incredibly pretty Vermont village, with a river running through its mountain valley. But this closed-up town had changed immensely. Along the bike path, no one met our eyes, no one nodded and said hello — and even my teen noticed. What’s up with that? she asked.

The town where I live struggles with plenty of challenges, but it’s not a tourist destination. I already knew that where you live in Vermont made a difference — that schools in wealthy communities offer more than schools in poorer, rural areas — but we saw a glimmer of a different kind of difference, too. Vermont, for all its loveliness as a place to live, is hardly homogenous. May this suspicion be a passing phase, too.

Meanwhile, the beauty of May reigns — with gold daffodils, red tulips, our grass sprinkled with violets. Asparagus, spinach, mesclun….

Summer afternoon downpour
a flock of sparrows
hanging on to the grass

— Buson

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Photo by Gabriela

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