Moisture.

Rain begins falling yesterday evening and falls all night. Through the open windows, the wet scent of soil drifts into our house. The cats sit on the sills, a little confused apparently by the breeze and wet.

For whatever reason, I wake remembering a visit to the emergency room with one of my daughters a number of years ago. I had wait for my then-husband to pick me up, and my little girl and I sat in the empty waiting room. It was night by then. My daughter slept in my lap. The nurse on duty was a mother in a parenting group that we had both participated in a few years before. Her daughter was in school then, and she had long ago ceased having any weekday morning free. We spoke for a little while, and she gave me a bottle of cold water to drink. It was June and hot, and the water was delicious. Such a small thing, remembered so many years later. Doubtlessly, she’s forgotten it.

This rain has the same deliciousness — tinged with fall, yes, but watering my dry garden. Summer’s gone. We’re in the season of red maple leaves.

I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face…

By Don Paterson

Take Joy.

There’s a line in a Raymond Carver that describes a woman as a long tall drink of water. The line reminds me of my oldest daughter — a kind of welcome draught. Myself, I’m more like a splash in the face.

She and her friends are in their early twenties and have lived an amount of life that surprises me at times. At her age, I’d had a whole, full childhood and was drifting through young adulthood, through college and graduate school and what amounted to an awful of driving around the country and sleeping in the back of our Volkswagen Rabbit. I’d sandwiched in a number of jobs, but the economy was sparse in those days. The pre-internet world was slower, less fierce, less competitive. In the collective vocabulary, the words climate change, pandemic, trauma, were never bandied around.

So on these balmy, early autumn weekends, it’s a pleasure to see her strap the kayaks on her car and head off for a pond ringed by mountains. Summer in Vermont is always too short. But this year, in particular, has been especially brief. Maybe it’s where I am in my life, with my youngest about to fly from the proverbial nest. But the stresses of the pandemic — hardly just for me, but collectively — have worn profoundly into our world. A delayed car part on order seems something hardly worth considering. As a personal sanity strategy, these lovely, golden autumn days, I pause outside and listen to the cricketsongs, the ruffle of wind on leaves that aren’t long for this world.

One thing I wish I knew in my twenties is that happiness matters. At that age, I had a whole confused theory about happiness versus pleasure, saving my soul and the planet, writing and sacrifice, and a narrow view of good parenting. Silently, I think to myself, Take joy where you find it. Surely our world needs more laughter. And rowing your narrow boat makes you strong.

…. Last, Streetlight published an essay of mine today. Many thanks!

Four Conversations.

A local radio station asks me to call in for a morning show this week. To cut down on the background birdsongs, I dial from my glassed-in front porch and stand looking out the windows at the hydrangeas which are particularly pink this year. My cat knocks over a glass of water. The water spills around my bare foot just as the announcer patches me on.

Radio’s particularly fun because the conversation moves quickly. The mystery of our conversation — the host and I talking about things that matter — travels invisibly into people’s living rooms and studios and cars and job sites. Meanwhile, my cat splashes water on my ankles. When I hang up, a friend phones me. As I tie my shoes to head to work, we talk quickly and make a plan to meet.

At the end of the week, I’m at a soccer game, watching the girls’ team, listening to the conversation behind me. Two men talk about roadside mowing along a stretch of back road I happen to know. I think I know this stretch really well, but listening to the men and how they describe the dips in the roads, the rocks in the ditches, the proximity of houses to the road, I realize there’s plenty I don’t know about this road at all. In the hot, late afternoon, I smell the sweetness of fresh sap mingled with two-cycle oil on their clothes.

Last night, my youngest and I were talking with my brother on the phone when my oldest called. My youngest patched her in. For a few moments, the four of spoke together — from two houses and a car mired in road construction. My oldest said, I’m calling to tell you the full moon is red. We each hung up and headed out to admire the night sky.

As season come
And seasons go
The moon will always glow

— Basho

Flight.

In the inky pre-dawn Next Mexico morning, my brother and I head back to the Santa Fe airport. He’s done this thing that somehow never hit my consciousness — rented a car like an Air BNB — which has been incredibly helpful. The sunrise spreads over the horizon, more golden than pink, while the three of us stand talking in the parking lot for just a moment. My brother hands over the keys, and then that’s done. The car’s owner leaves.

My brother and I have time. We can walk through the one-room Santa Fe airport in about three minutes — maybe six, including security. A half moon hangs above us. We kick around words for the phases of the moon, and he teases me, again, about what he claims is my overuse of the word gibbous in my first novel. As the wide Santa Fe sky morphs from black to blue, Orion fades.

On the short flight to Denver, my brother and I are separated by a few rows, each of us peering out the window at the Jemez mountains. We’re back in that enormous flow of airline travel, so many people going so many places, all that fuel and pollution eating up the planet. Not very long ago, people remained on the earth. But for these moments, suspended thousands of miles above the planet, I glimpse my brother and I as separate people but indelibly part of this great human stream, traveling to visit our old parents. Around us, everyone moves through their lives and stories.

The pilot ferries us above the mountains and through the clouds. As I walk into the airport, I say thank you, and I mean it.

Travels into Other Time Zones.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

My seatmate on the flight from Burlington to Denver chats me up. He complains a bit about the travel time, and then we kick around a few thoughts about what travel by Conestoga wagon would have been like. He says, You don’t come back from that trip.

True. This cross country flight is now familiar to me in the strange way of airline travel — through different airports, with people I’ve never met, juggling the odd variables of cancelled flights, rerouted paths, and so much human energy and mass, compelled to travel for so many unique reasons.

Talking, he and I figure out that we know two people in common, well enough that we can name traits we like about these people. A few hours in, I find myself in the same scenario that I’ve been in on prior flights — he pulls out his phone and then we’re talking about the Air BNB he’s about to visit, the friends he’s meeting, and the story goes on from there. True, I’m a captive audience, sandwiched between him and a young woman planning her wedding on a white board. What the heck. I’ve nowhere else I can go, and I’m hardly adverse to a few hours of laughter.

The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend. There was a certain magnificence in the high-up day, a certain eagle-like royalty, so different from the equally pure, equally pristine and lovely morning of Australia, which is so soft, so utterly pure in its softness, and betrayed by green parrot flying. But in the lovely morning of Australia one went into a dream. In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the old world gave way to a new.”

— D. H. Lawrence

Today. Yesterday. Tomorrow.

Sunday, we drive across the Connecticut River into New Hampshire. There, the mountains are much taller and rugged than Vermont’s shorn down ridges. I grew up (mostly) in New Hampshire, and granite in boulders and quarried slabs is as familiar to me as my kitchen knives.

I sit in the backseat, knitting, and all the way there and all the way back, I have the strangest sensation of a sewing needle linking these two states and the pieces of my life — girlhood and young motherhood and the cusp I’m on again as my fledglings head off gleefully into the wild. In New Hamsphire, we meet my brother for lunch in a leisurely way, nothing serious, batting around trips and ideas, family stories. We sit outside in the shade. As we leave, he tips back his head and says, What perfect weather.

We return home with tiny cheesecakes in jars, a few groceries, a kind of sleepiness and fullness from the drive. We’re back in time to feed the hungry housecats their early dinner. In the garden, I pull up some gone-by marigolds and cucumber vines. Working, I think of all these little bits and pieces of our lives, how I often struggle to put these together. And yet, sometimes, how our lives are sewn together, as if miraculously. End of August. And now onto what I hope is a long sweet autumn.

Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen.

The voice of forest water in the night, a woman’s laughter in the dark, the clean, hard rattle of raked gravel, the cricketing stitch of midday in hot meadows, the delicate web of children’s voices in bright air–these things will never change.

— Thomas Wolfe