Still Here, Hardwick, Vermont

I’m reading Ruth Stone in bed when my daughter comes up the stairs in her jacket and says I must go with her to look at the moon. It’s nearly eleven. We leave the younger sister sleeping with the cats, cross over the snow above my sleeping garlic, and leap the fence into the cemetery.

The moon shines like an enormous drop of cream, nearly round but not quite, waning. The two of us stand in the granite stones, over the sleeping dead, gazing up at the constellations sprawled over the dark sky, and the village below us, cupped in night-black mountains.

While my daughter sits on the ground with her camera, we talk about the landscape around us, and our family landscape. She’s so grownup now, so fully a young woman, that the terrain between us — always intimate, close — has opened like this starry sky.

On our way back, I’m tired, it’s true, and I carelessly place my Sorel boot sole on the jagged wire cresting the fence and not on the smooth bar. Carelessly, my eyes blinded with night, I ignore my own cautious worries about breaking a wrist and jeopardizing our slender livelihood. The wire snags my sole, and I fall to the cold ground at my daughter’s feet, my bare fingers in the snow. For a brief moment, the world turns upside-down, and I lie there in the beloved, beautiful moonlight, completely still.

And then life goes on. Isn’t that lesson enough? Life goes on.

Now snow falls again in ragged, loose flakes, and spring won’t hurry with my exhortations, but arrive when it will.

You have to take comfort where you can — in the nuthatches coming to the feeder, in the warmth of the wood stove, in the voices of your lovely grandchildren. You have to allow yourself to take joy.

— Ruth Stone



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