Monday Morning, Back to Work

When my little daughter was three, one morning in the kitchen she noticed the orange day lilies had opened their buds, and she ran upstairs to her sister, calling, Willies! Willies, sissy!

Yesterday, driving around Vermont — perhaps in an attempt to shake off a funk — day lilies bloomed everywhere, colorful masses along the roadside and white clapboard meeting houses and tiny shacks with fantastic views of green and blue mountains.

Fully into July now, I know our summer will be filled with work — some terrific and some not so — with the family complexities of single parenting, of keeping our life not only cohesive but creative. There’s lists of things I’d like to do — climb the Underhill route to Mansfield’s summit, paint the trim, plant two fruit trees — but lying in bed this morning, listening to the songbirds crack open the daybreak, I decided to par this down to one single thing: swim in the pond until the water grows cold and hostile. I lay there thinking that’s free to do, and then wondered when I had lost the sense of free in this life might be.

… (the day lily is) coarse and ordinary and it’s beautiful because
it’s ordinary. A plant gone wild and therefore become
rugged, indestructible, indomitable, in short: tough, resilient,
like anyone or thing has to be in order to survive.

— David Budbill, from “The Ubiquitous Day Lily of July”

IMG_2518.JPG

Sudbury, Vermont

 

Diving In

This in-between holiday week, our unstated goal has been to swim twice a day — in the midday hard heat and in the dusky evening, when the surface of the water holds warmth and our feet trail into the cooler eddies beneath.

We’re drinking our fill of milkweed blossoms, the reflection of clouds in rippling ponds, ice cream cones — as if this stockpiling might carry into the white and gray palette of Vermont’s winter.

I wonder what became of
purity. The world is a
complex fatigue….
(The geranium flowers) are clusters of richness
held against the night in quiet
exultation, five on each branch,
upraised. I bought it myself
and gave it to my young wife
years ago, in a plastic cup
with a 19cent seedling
from the supermarket, now
so thick, leathery-stemmed,
and bountiful with blossom.

— Hayden Carruth, “August First”

IMG_2454.jpg

Hardwick, Vermont

Why Love Teens

When my older daughter was a teen and invited over a posse of girls, I was always amazed by just the size of the girls — so much young female energy and just so much talk! They eat like crazy — and then eat like crazy again — but they’re just so darn enthusiastic, just so darn happy to be testing out the world.

Last night at our house, the six young teens, buoyed by a balmy early summer evening, slept outside. Why not? Under the stars, I could see my breath.

On the same day, the neighbors’ celebrated their four-year-old’s birthday. In the afternoon, he began riding a bicycle with training wheels. When my teens eat and eat, when I’m mired down in the complexities of living with teens, I remind myself that those sweet sippy cup days have now passed me by.

Tired, the girls struggled in bedraggled in the morning, hungry for waffles.

I emerge
from the museum
at dusk —
the blue Nile
floods over.

— Fumi Saitō

IMG_2105.jpg

Dirty Knees

Mid-morning in sultry yesterday, I’m beneath the deck nailing a chicken fence on one end to keep my daughter’s chickens from venturing toward the neighbors. I’m thinking of my folded-up laptop on the table on the deck above my head and of the woman I just interviewed, how I want to write just 500 words before I’m at the middle school again, picking up my daughter. At the same time, I’m thinking of a house insurance bill.

Her golden chicken appears beside me and clucks softly, as if asking a question. Then I just stop for a moment and ask the chicken, hey, what’s up? I remember when my father, decades ago, put on his oldest clothes and crawled in the narrow space beneath our house, cleaning up the droppings from our beloved cat.

I hammer that fence together — maybe it’ll hold for a day or a year — toss the chicken a crust leftover from my daughter’s breakfast as she rushed to school, and then I write those 500 words.

Black gloves
I threw into a field
rise up again —
yellow flowers blooming
from their fingers.

— Fumi Saitō in A Long Rainy Season

IMG_2085.jpg

I’m driving around Barre, Vermont, and can’t find the high school, so I pull into a garage. I glanced at a map before I left work, and figured, what the heck, a high school can’t be that difficult to find.

Two men are in the garage, and I ask for directions. They look at each other and don’t answer. I say I’m headed to my daughter’s track meet, and do I turn left or right?

One of the men says, You better follow me. I’ll take you there. It’s not where you think it should be.

So I follow this man in his Toyota, about six minutes down the road, and then I see the bleachers first and then the high school.

He puts on his blinker and waits until I turn in, my arm raised out the window.

The mother I’m meeting MapQuested the school. The meet’s long, and we have time to begin to know each other, back and forth, in bits of conversation.

The trees are just beginning to push out green. Barre, Scary Barre, which always reminded me of the saddest parts of Manchester, New Hampshire, when I was a kid, where streets of once gracious houses were crumbling into sad and broken dreams. On our way home, my daughter and I stop at a 50s-style hamburger joint, where I buy a vanilla milkshake for my daughter from a sweetly cheerful teenage girl. The milkshake is the one of the best we’ve tasted in years.

IMG_1851.jpg

 

Metaphors

The front of our house has two small glassed-in porches, one on the first floor and one on the second. Since the windows are single-paned, we closed them off for the winter, leaving them as darn cold storage.

Our last house reminded me of a clipper ship, especially under the stars at night, with its tall and windowed cupola. This house, instead, on a hill, reminds me a lighthouse, its windows a beacon we can see all the way down into town.

The cats are happy to have the doors open to other rooms, coffee and laptop a portable office.

Aristotle, on the other hand, saw poetry as having a positive value: “It is a great thing, indeed, to make proper use of the poetic forms, . . . But the greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor” (Poetics 1459a); “ordinary words convey only what we know already; it is from metaphor that we can best get hold of something fresh.” (Rhetoric 1410b)

— George Lakoff, from Metaphors We Live By

IMG_1776

Acer on chair courtesy of Ben Hewitt