In what could be called Yet Another Phase of Life, I meet my oldest daughter at her apartment, and we take the dog for a walk up a dirt road where I’ve never been. It’s rural Vermont, and the road bends away from the river valley and winds steeply up a hillside. It’s sunny and cold, and there’s absolutely zero traffic on the road. The weather had turned warm a few days ago, rutted up in a foretaste of mud season, and now is frozen in deep ruts.
The trees end at a stone wall and a sprawl of farm fields, with an incredible four-story 19th century barn. Whoever lives here appears to be hosting a kids’ sledding party. The homeowner appears on the road, with his black dog, who coincidentally shares the same name as my daughter’s dog. We speak pleasantly for a few moments, and it’s clear not many strangers wander up this road.
My daughter snaps a photo of a dripping icicle from one of the little outbuildings.
The kids’ party slowly heads back to SUVs and station wagons, the kids red-checked, in snowsuits, carrying small white paper bags. The adults wave and smile at us.
A little later, I drive home through that river valley I’ve driven countless times now, alone or with kids or sometimes with friends. The road switchbacks through the shadowy Woodbury gulf, and shortly after that, I’m home again, feeding the wood stove and cats, then on the couch with my laptop and work, listening to the litany of reporting from the Ukraine. I remember clearly when I was 23, too, living in Vermont, and it seemed utterly normal to have strangers ask, out of curiosity and nothing more, where do you live and what’s your story?
I sweep up the stove ashes and bring in more wood. The night promises more cold. How much I’d love to put my hands on sun-warmed soil and plant a garden of sunflowers.
Wild honey smells of freedom
The dust – of sunlight
The mouth of a young girl, like a violet
But gold – smells of nothing.― Anna Akhmatova