Ode to Dirt

While my youngest cleaned out her chicken house, I kicked apart the compost and did a little ‘reorganizing’ of black earth — that chocolate for plants — mushy sunflower stalks from last October, paired with last week’s old rice.

Outside all afternoon, I remembered why I love living in this house, on this village hillside, in Vermont — especially when I found a cluster of heart-shaped leaves on the south side of our house, tucked up against the foundation wall, soaking up sun. The blossoms were the purest of white, the tiny petals streaked with deep purple. Common violets.

In this season of growth, four teens in my kitchen…..



Heron’s Return

The snow’s back, keeping the population in Hardwick predictably low.

This time of year is both ugly and tantalizing — the trash bleeding up, the tree buds fattening, robins chittering. And yet, the snow lies ubiquitous.

What else would we complain about? a friend asks at a middle school concert. We sit in the very back row — she and her husband, myself and my knitting I take out of my bag, but no further. Quickly, we’re laughing, giggling, silly, admiring our middle school daughters, intrigued at their age and maybe a little afraid — so new, so new; everything about adolescence shrieks of heading over the nest’s carefully mudded wall.

Often, I think of Robert Frost’s line: In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on. So it does. But, like anyone, I’d prefer life to go on better, rather than worse. So, perhaps, grousing about the weather is nothing.

Despite the snow, the lakes have opened up. The herons are back, their great wings cutting across the gray sky.

What I’m thinking of….


The Only Question

Picture this: the three of us — two daughters and myself — clustered together in my older daughter’s car, driving to Craftsbury to ski. My older daughter is talking, talking, talking, when her 13-year-old sister dryly mentions from the backseat the kind of tepid comment she sometimes offers — a sentiment along the lines of what the heck is life all about, anyway? A kind of classic, existential angst that seems perfectly normal — to me, at least — for a rapidly-heading-toward-adolescent.

Bingo, I think. There’s the question. The only question, really.

Her sister, cut perhaps from a very different philosophical cloth, directs our attention to the afternoon which is turning sunny, and notes the skiing is going to be amazing, yet. That terrific kind of April skiing that’s like dessert.

Later, I go looking for my old copies of Alan Watts and find this:

Really, the fundamental, ultimate mystery — the only thing you need to know to understand the deepest metaphysical secrets — is this: that for every outside there is an inside and for every inside there is an outside, and although they are different, they go together.

— Alan Watts


Oh Goddess, This Way…

On this spongy, springy April day, may Fortuna smile a little more warmly on northern Vermont…..

With good reason, the ancients revered the fearsome goddess Fortuna, out of a sense that the sovereign powers of this world were ultimately capricious.

— Kyle Harper, The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire


Forcing Spring

Just before we leave for the evening, the girls run out and cut some lilacs branches. On our kitchen table, forsythia sticks from a friend soak up water in a jar, their yellow blossoms half-open.

Since my girls were little, our house’s doors were a porous membrane between wild Vermont around us and our domestic space: moss, pebbles, fungus, bark…., tempered off in the snowy winters.

In Vermont, April, not March, is the season of in like a lion, out like a lamb. All night long, wind rushed around our house, the official month of opening the windows.

… truth, which I believe to be both unchanging and at the core of all art. I think the essential thing about truth is that it must be experienced, and in order to be experienced, I think it has to appear nakedly, not woven into inherited notions.

—Karl Ove Knausgaard, So Much Longing In So Little Space: the Art of Edvard Munch


Rain Patter

In our former house, the pink Owens-Corning insulation had been so shredded by mice in the ceiling that we could easily hear rain on the metal roof — a pleasant sound, although the resulting winter cold didn’t match that coziness.

Our house now is cool in the summers, warm or certainly warm-ish in the winters, the most well-insulated house I’ve ever lived in, and I’m darn grateful for that, all the way around. Last night, I opened my daughter’s window so she could hear the sound of the rain. Her cat jumped up on the sill, his nose pressed against her screen, curious about what was happening in the night. We haven’t heard the rain for a very long time now — a few aberrant storms in the winter — but this steady rain promised the chirping peepers will return.

Nearly 40 degrees out, I left the window open a few inches so my daughter could lie in bed, reading and listening to the rain.

On the other side of her wall, I read an article in The New Yorker about lost notebooks in Egypt. The sap will be running all night.