Dribbles of Spring

Light returns in a rush in these clear sunny days, where the sun has warmth but the shadows are frigid. My daughter abandons her coat.

The days, once so slow with toddlers, spin along, dawn to evening to the night’s constellations, as if the final years of my youngest’s childhood have accelerated. Living on the edge of this small Vermont valley, the sky stretches out as much as it ever does in Vermont, unlike the endless horizons of the west. Come summer, this world will be dense with leaves and gardens, but for now, we’re living in layers of snow and sky, beginning that push-pull of warmth-cold heading toward spring.

What was difficult
was the travel, which,
on arrival, is forgotten.

Louise Glück
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Howling

Coyotes howled along the brook by the log yard last night as I walked home in the dark, hurrying in the cold that gnawed my face.

Ten below zero this morning. In the deep cold, smoke curls up from our neighbors’ chimney. My long love affair with Vermont strangely deepens in these days as friends fly out for school break to other places: warm Caribbean waters or hot Florida sands.

Inexorably, the days lengthen on either end, the palest of blue in the mornings, shades of violet and rose in the evenings. At dinner, we think of those tulip and crocus bulbs buried deep in the earth, secreted beneath snow, patient, patient, even as the earth spins its slow way toward March.

I thought that there was only ever a thing and its opposite, and nothing in between. In writing this book I have come to believe in this far less than I did when I started. Unraveling and unlearning this split logic is crucial to justice, I think, and it is crucial to love — loving a person, community, or most of all perhaps, a place, which may turn out to be the same thing.

— Emma Copely Eisenberg, The Third Rainbow Girl

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Photo by Molly S.

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Stories

My favorite opening line from a Ray Carver short story reads, “I’ve seen some things.” Winter weary, in mid-February: I’ve heard some things.

A colleague shares a nearly-unbelievable story of her marriage breakup, and I think, madness, madness. The story is so unreal, it’s plausible to me. Kierkegaard wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Every morning, every evening, the light lingers just a little longer, reminds us that spring is buried deep but not impossibly buried, that forwards is always the thrust of life.  Smartphones and the internet notwithstanding, the human story in many ways repeats its endless variations of the same simple story, over and over. We’re sentient beings on a changing planet. Snow trickles into tulips. Spring light inevitably emerges.

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Sunday Searching

Evidence below of color in the February Vermont landscape.

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When we sugared, February was the month of gauging when to tap — and sometimes a month when we began boiling. Other years, the winter dragged on and on, and February often seemed a month of hurry up and get ready to sugar — and then wait.

Having spent most of my adult life sugaring, those physical patterns wore into me. At a concert the other night, I thought how the drummer must have the habit of transporting his drums, to all kinds of places.

Winter, for long-term New Englanders, I think, comes with its own kind of baggage, our knowledge of particular hardnesses of snow, or the how the fluffiness of drifting snow globe flakes should be savored. Or, perhaps, our determination to seek that flash of color in a landscape of white.

The unexamined life is not worth living, as the aphorism goes, but perhaps an honorable and informed life requires examining others’ lives, not just one’s own. Perhaps we do not know ourselves unless we know others. And if we do, we know that nobody is nobody.

Rebecca Solnit, Whose Story is This?

 

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Mind, Cold, Beauty

17 degrees below zero this morning.

When I head out to start my daughter’s car before she heads to work, a perfect half moon is poised over our house, moonbeams glistening on our black metal roof.

Cold. But the Vermont way is to say, I’ve seen colder. I have. I will (presumably) again. Just as the body accumulates tolerance, the mind unwittingly relaxes into perspective.

But that’s the mind. As the dawn opens up, the sky bruises violet. Stars gleam. The day moves on.

It’s interesting.
Lied upon one another
The umbrellas in the snow.

— Shiki

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Teenagers Recite Poems

Reluctantly, my daughter drags herself to a required high school poetry recitation.

While I chat with parents I haven’t seen in ages, I see her laughing with a boy she’s known since third grade.

Adolescents and poetry — how fun! One boy gives a comedic performance of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” beginning by asking the prompter, Where am I stopping now?

Another boy’s fingers tremble as he reads a particularly beautiful poem. A shy girl comes alive.

Afterwards, talking in the dark on the short drive home from the theater, my daughter tells me about each student, how they chose their two poems, and what their voice was like. My daughter’s second poem was Frost’s Two roads diverged in a narrow road, so familiar, such a beloved poem. Nervous for her first poem, Emily Dickinson, she gained her voice with the second, her eyes on the upper balcony, her voice clear, melodious, utterly her.

Tonight the bear
comes to the orchard and, balancing
on her hind legs, dances under the apple trees,
hanging onto their boughs,
dragging their branches down to earth.
From ‘The Bear” by Susan Mitchell
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Kid Tracks

Tuesday, I’m at the Vermont Department of Libraries for an all-day workshop in the enormous, former high school — the loveliest of buildings in Barre. Built on a hill with a view of the town, every time I walk through the doors I wonder when we thought it was wiser to educate kids in ugly brick and nearly-windowless buildings instead of spacious and high-ceilinged rooms, with a sweeping staircase and polished woodwork.

How the world changes. The building is largely quiet now.

Midday, I walk on slushy sidewalks around a nearby park, a perfect square fronted by enormous ornate Victorian houses. On a snowbank, I see where a child’s mittened hand pressed ripples into the fresh white. The waves are low, and so I imagine a small child walking along in a snowsuit, thinking of not much at all but the pleasure of pressing fingertips into snow. The bank ends, and there’s no more sign of the child.

Here’s one more poem from Buhner’s book…..

People possess four things
that are no good at sea:
rudder, anchor, oars
and the fear of going down.

— Machado

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Photo by Gabriela. Hazen trails, Hardwick.

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