Female House

The summer my second daughter was an infant, the season was particularly hot and sticky — at least in my memory it was. That summer I just didn’t do certain things — I washed clothes and probably even folded them, but I rarely put them away.

Domestic chaos? Maybe. But I knew I would never have another baby, the  irreplaceable sweetness of a nursing infant in arms.

We were at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center that summer with our 6-year-old for a very minor procedure, and my then-husband and I took turns walking up and down the hospital hallways with an infant. At one point, I stood swaying with my sleeping baby from foot to foot, reading the posters on the wall.

One watercolor was a purple hyacinth blossom with the words beneath: Choose joy.

When I drove away from the hospital, with all four of us, and crossed the river back into Vermont, I was so light-hearted, so happy. It was such a minor thing that had occurred, and we were all together and well.

Now that infant daughter is a teenager, the oldest daughter a young woman. Like all families, we’ve lived through the gamut of happiness and grief and rage. Every now and then, I remind myself, slow down, breathe deep, and finger the strand of life that’s joy.

You might as well answer the door, my child,
the truth is furiously knocking.

— Lucille Clifton, Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980


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One Year

Friday mornings find me in the Buffalo Mountain Co-op’s cooler, stocking Vermont milk, yogurt made just up the road, kimchi from ust down the road.

What a feast these bottles of milk would be for our little cats, who lie at home, curled in their blankets on this rainy morning.

One year ago today, in the early afternoon, I signed for this house on a hot, early afternoon. When the owner handed over the keys, I took one off and handed it to my daughter, who was about to graduate from high school.

Now, the girls and I have been joined by two cats and a small flockette of chickens.

Here’s a few lines from early morning reading:

For all their complexities, emotions exist for a very basic purpose: to initiate and maintain activities necessary for survival. In a nutshell, they modulate two drives that are absolutely essential to animal life, including human life: attachment and aversion.

― Gabor Maté’s In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction


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Evening Pause

Last night, just before dusk, I walked around gathering  the croquet mallets and put them in the barn, before the predicted rain today. My daughter came out to fold towels thrown over the railings, and we listened to geese fly overhead.

That morning, I woke remembering the fall she was a year-and-a-half, and I was frantically mailing maple syrup — as if mail-ordering maple would be a cash cow, although a very small one.

To that younger mother of myself, I think, Slow down. Decades of evenings lie ahead.

I finally take my own advice to myself. I don’t weed a patch of the garden where I’d been heading. I listen to my daughter, and then she heads out into the gloaming, on a solitary walk.

…Rich fresh wine
of June, we stagger into you smeared
with pollen, overcome as the turtle
laying her eggs in roadside sand.
From Marge Piercy’s “More Than Enough”


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Lady Lupine

Here’s a line from a children’s picture book — my younger daughter’s favorite — You must do something to make the world more beautiful.

Last evening, I overhead the girls planning to spread lupine seeds gleaned from the flowers blooming before our house. Maybe that thousand and one readings of Miss Rumphius sowed deep, or maybe spreading these blossoms is just instinctual, part of being alive.


Photo by Molly S.

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Local Wanders

When I lived on 100 acres in fairly rural Vermont, I didn’t imagine we’d change that story. 100 acres is a large chunk of land, and those 100 acres didn’t end at any boundary save a single dirt road along one side. The corners were rebar pins, surrounded by thousands of acres alive with fisher and bear and moose, jack-in-the-pulpit and hobblebush.

Living in Hardwick village now, the wild still surrounds us. Along our former road, tumbled-in stone foundations are reminders of farming families, who at some point packed up and moved along.

Yesterday, we walked along the railroad tracks, walled in at times by forest, and crossed the Lamoille River over a questionable bridge, hidden in this oh-so-June green beauty behind the town. I could imagine a hundred years ago, terrain cleared around the tracks, the rail bed studded with cinders. Save for the four of us, we saw no one but a crow.

The first step … shall be to lose the way.

— Galway Kinnell


Photo by Molly S.

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11 at night, I’m at the high school, waiting for my daughter to return from a band/amusement park trip. The sun set hours ago, and I grab an extra sweater on the way out. It’s cold, cold enough I’m surprised I don’t see a ghostly cloud of my breath.

I get out of my car and hurry down the steep hill to the soccer field. Away from the lights in the school’s parking lot, the constellations appear, this silent beauty. I walk all the way around the field, to the far end where the woods begin. These fields, one of the most well-used places in Hardwick, are empty. On the rise of land above, I see moving car lights as parents pull in.

If the grass weren’t drenched with cold dew, I’d lie down. I remember being 19-years-old, the first year I lived in Vermont, and hiking in the middle of the night with a friend to a field. Rural Vermont, there were no human lights surrounding us at all. It was November and quite cold, but we were well-dressed and very young, and we lay down in the field and talked and talked.

I could feel the universe’s energy come up through the not-yet-frozen black earth, through the glacial pebble and tangled root, through my vertebrae and flesh, all the way up to the countless stars overhead.


Vultures/by Molly S.

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Three Quarters Through the Night

It’s a bird-eat-bird world the young woman with a hawk on her arm tells the kids in my library. The kids ask question after question, from Why is the bird’s head bobbing up and down to Why is that little screech owl in such a big box?

That bird-eat-bird world is a hungry world.

Returning home, my older daughter rolls out pizza dough. The chickens have been squawking at a woodchuck running behind the barn. I eye my newly-planted garden. The younger daughter appears with six eggs in her basket. Overhead, the turkey vultures glide in spirals.

This morning, in the early dark, rain falls. I stand on the porch in the dark, listening, too early yet for even the songbirds to have risen. The darkness smells of wet earth. I think of my bean plant seedlings, their first leaves unfurling, stretching out further, drinking in this June rain.

Green, how much I want you green.

— Lorca


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