Woodchuck

Geese fly overhead in the dark evening, so near I hear their wings beating. Frost hovers, gathering strength.

Yeah, my daughter says, that’s what geese do. They’re out of here!

The garden’s gone wild at the end of the season, its queen the mightiest and heaviest sunflower head I’ve ever grown. Its stalk might rival a sturdy sapling.

The woodchuck’s gnawing my cabbage heads near the garden gate. In another year, I might have set the trap, but this year…. Gnaw on, chuck. Winter’s coming. The cabbages are profuse.

A touch of cold in the Autumn night –
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

— T. E. Hulme’s “Autumn”

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God, Ghosts, Aliens

My daughters start a fire in the rock pit in our yard at the end of a sunny day, a day of hiking and laughter, of putting away a gorgeous onion harvest, of weeding and transplanting daisies from a friend, of painting the lower barn door blue (please, mom, why not just white?)

There’s no one else, no visitors, no company stopping by, just the three of us cooking outside sprawling on the grass as the dusk gradually filters down and pulls out the brilliance of pink zinnias, a tangle of nasturtiums, gold in a maple in the cemetery. We’ve nowhere else to go but into the house and sleep.

My older daughter shares a conversation she had with her coworkers that night, about the probably of God, of ghosts, of UFOs, and the girls dive into what they’ve read about Roswell.

Under my bare feet, the grass holds the day’s warm sunlight yet. Listening, I remember the barren patches in this grass when we moved in. The grass is lush now, like a well-tended cat’s fur.

My younger daughter, with a new kind of adolescent edginess, announces her own nihilism. I offer, But here’s the rub there: what about life? What about youand then I wise up and shut up. A few tendrils of mist settle into the valley below us. In the night, rain will move in, but for now, it’s just us and the sunlight, and all that evening ahead.

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Sometime in August

I’m picking up the pace on a wool sweater I’m knitting — a roundabout way of realizing the patches of red on some maples (and no longer just the sick or stressed) mean I actually will be wanting to wear those knitted strands before too long.

Still, summer folks fill my library these days. They all have houses along Woodbury’s lakes, or visit people who have houses along lakes. They’re full of good will, polite, curious about our winters, ready to swap tales of their winters. One family had twins last October. The parents plop the babies on the library floor, and take a deep and exhausted breath.

Driving home, just before the swamp separating Woodbury from Hardwick, the sun hits the goldenrod just so, with scrubby pink clover along the roadside.  Rags of mist amble along the swamp, around the bend in the mountains.

For a moment, it’s just me and the road, the gold and the emerald and transient strands of cloud. August, at this very moment. At home, the girls have made blueberry pie, and that’s equally fleeting.

All the way I have come
all the way I am going
here in the summer field

—Buson

 

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Same, Same

The weeds lining the pathway beginning my evening walk are shoulder-high now, wet last night after the afternoon and evening downpour. We chatter this year about ticks, ticks, and Lyme disease, and at soccer games, the parents wonder when did we become afraid to sit on the grass?

Nonetheless, I push through the wet grass while the kids are home, playing Yahtzee or laughing about something or someone, possibly me. Midsummer, gloriously hot, weedy, chaotic. When I dig out the Japanese beetles burrowed into the pink roses, the flowers yield their heavenly fragrance. That’s summer in Vermont — both hungry pest and the ineffable delicacy of roses.

There are other birds too, visitors we hear only
in the summertime, but it’s the screened door slamming
that is the definition of summer for me.

— David Budbill, “The Sound of Summer”

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Photo by Molly S.

 

No Liberty for Chickens

On this Independence Day…. I’m reminded that my daughters’ ancestors on the little wooden Mayflower pledged their lives together (well, the men did) in a Civil Body Politic for the general good of the Colony. 399 years later, our neighbor stands on our back porch, clipping our chickens’ wings. History’s great swoop, and our daily fretting. Which, perhaps, is all I can say, as we head into another election season.

We must hang together.

— John Hancock

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Spring Nourishment

The two pear trees beside our house had failure to thrive when we moved in — more stick than tree. These trees are some of my silent, longer-term projects, feeding them manure and attention. Substitute veggies and sausage for manure, and that’s my approach to parenting. While I’m planting leeks, barefoot and happy in the garden, the 14-year-olds are baking mini cupcakes, then loading the Toyota with a kayak and the pizza-shaped floatie, dreaming of the not-so-distant future when they’ll be at the wheel of the car, fulfilling the rural Vermont kid’s dream of unfettered freedom with a tank of gas and the open road.

In the meantime, while they’re nourishing themselves with kid-plans and laughter, I’m entranced by the violets on the lawn, wondering if the gifted peonies will bloom this year…

Sadness at twilight . . .
villain! I have
let my hand
Cut that peony

— Buson

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