Heavy snow falls this morning. My little cat sits at the back door, staring up at flakes swirling down through the porch light. The snow is dense and sopping wet and won’t last long. It will drive out the green that is already bursting through the tips of branches. Nonetheless, the damp eats into us. I’ve foolishly let the wood stove go dead. When I kindle a fire, the cats return, satisfied again.
Around us, there’s a raging dissatisfaction. The pandemic continues to unwind, and war rages overseas in the most sickening ways. My teenager asks with adolescent scorn what’s up with the human race, anyway, as if I’ve had a major role in shaping eons of stark unfairness. I toss the conversation back to her: you’re a piece of this human pie, too.
I long for heat and beach sand.
In the meantime, the great world spins on. The snow will melt by midday. We keep on.
Robin songs come through my open window this morning. Although I’m still keeping the wood stove at least tepidly warm, we leave the bedroom windows open all night. In this corner of Vermont, we’ve had Easters of snow, others of hot sun.
After dinner last night, we started talking about what this holiday is about anyway. My teenager pulled her sweatshirt hood over her head and scooted down on the couch. Unintentionally, she looked like a little kid again, listening to the chat around her and diving in at times.
I remembered the Easter she was four or so, and her friend from down the road came to play. The girls ran around under the giant spruce tree in our scrappy yard. When I stepped out of the kitchen to sit on the porch and talk to the girls, the little children were running around with two large snowshoe hares that were molting to brown. The girls asked me what was wrong with their fur; it was so patchy and strange. They were worried the hares were injured.
Our house was surrounded by thousands of acres of wilderness, but we had never seen hares, only their tracks all through the woods. The hares stayed for a visit that morning, running between the girls. Delighted, the girls kept calling, “rabbits! rabbits!” I moved on, distracted by whatever chore I was sure I needed to do. When I returned, the hares had disappeared. We never saw them again.
This morning, my alarm buzzed before dawn, and I lay there, wondering if I really needed to keep on with what I’m doing. Indeed, apparently, I do, although I often feel like a molting hare. The robins sang sweetly, actually for dear life. I got up to feed the cats and make coffee.
It’s been a very long two years. Savor whatever birdsongs or sweetness or coffee comes your way.
Five Aprils ago, I was looking for a house for my daughters and me. In a nearby town, on a weekday afternoon, I climbed over a chainlink fence separating an empty house from a town cemetery. The fence spikes ripped the back of my leggings. I was on my way to the library where I was working, and I wore those torn leggings for the remainder of the day. I still have those leggings. I wear them when I paint, and they’re now stained with patches of lemon yellow.
When I walked behind the house, I discovered tiny blue quill — spring flowers I didn’t know. The house was surrounded by those flowers and the promise of profuse lilacs in June.
I bought the house in 2017, although it wasn’t until the pandemic nailed down that the house began to feel truly ours. We are not a rowdy family of nine. We are a family of three and now two housecats.
The thing about spring is — turn around and it’s there, quietly, blooming in some unexpected way.
I’ve reached the point in my life where suddenly my parents are old and my daughters are fleeing childhood. Technically, this is the Empty Nest realm, although I dislike that phrase. I’m not heading anywhere. Do the cats count for nothing?
A different woman might be plotting a sewing room. Instead, I’m plotting my own Huck Finn plans, and I’ll pack my knitting needles, thank you very much.
While my youngest is still here, and I’m still reveling in the teen world (which is, honestly, utterly fascinating), I sense more and more how I saddle two generations.
So I read poet Diana Whitney’s recent IG post about intergenerational trauma and female bodies with keen interest today. I followed by reading Whitney’s essay in Longreads. You should read it, too. We’d all be healthier, perhaps, if we spoke a little more about these hard things. And that, today, is as far as I’ll write about that.
My daughter asks me if I’ve ever almost died — or at least thought I was dying.
She’s lacing her shoes, about to head out for a run. The day has been remarkably warm and beautiful, reaching above fifty degrees.
Three times, I answer: almost drowned when I was a teenager on a canoe trip, your father averted us from a pile up in Seattle, and the anesthesia went awry at your birth.
Later, I walk up to the high school and wait for her. I sit at a picnic table behind the school. It’s the first of all kinds of things again — the first time sitting at a picnic table outside since winter, the first time this spring I’ve seen grass that appears really green. An acquaintance stops to talk, and we swap stories about the school and board, new hires. Her grown son appears, and I can’t help but remember when he was just a little kid, and now he’s all grown up.
When they’re gone, I walk around this building that has meant so many very different things to so many people. Such a long and complicated story, a microcosm of this great big world. At this moment, she and I are both a piece of this story.
My daughter returns. On our drive home, I ask why she wondered about my near-death experiences. She shrugs. Just thought I should know, she answers.
I have the odd feeling she’s gathering intel about me.
Before it’s warm enough, I open the open to our glassed in porch. This porch (nor its upstairs counterpart) isn’t heated. In Vermont’s long winters, we simply close the door and leave the space be. I think of this as a standard New England practice. I store empty canning jars, summer flip-flops, things like old blankets I don’t really want any longer, but nor do I want to cast away.
All day long, doves and cardinals, juncos and chickadees and sparrows, dip and fly around our house. The crocuses struggle upward. I should be cleaning our house, I think, taking a broom to the cobwebby corners before the spring sets in mightily and I’m in the garden as much as possible, happy as I could ever be, the warming soil between my toes.
Now, snow falls intermittently. The robins dig into the earth hungrily.