Frost Slivers.

Hardwick, Vermont

Vermont November is the month of introspection.

Beloved friends from long ago stop by for coffee and conversation on their way from here to there. We’d last seen them when we first moved in this house, less five years ago.

We take that figure of five years and turn it around and around — so much has happened in those five years. As with everyone I meet from afar these days, I ask what’s happening where they live. The conversation has a strange, almost wartime sentiment, as we compare notes.

In mid-afternoon, I bury daffodil bulbs. The soil has already begun to freezing. My bare fingers burrow through silvers of white frost, the teeth of winter beginning to grow. Finished, I brush off my hands on my jeans and stow my shovel in the barn.

Sweet Day

All day on my oldest daughter’s birthday, I remember that this was the day I became a mother. The day is imbued with a rosy holiness, transforming the everyday world of mundane things — a laundry basket, a cheese grater, a dutch oven — into pieces of our miraculous life. Parenting is a long, long road — there’s no doubt about that — the world would be unimaginable without this road.

At the end of a very long labor with this baby, I saw myself descending deeper and deeper into a dark, stone-lined well, my arm outstretched, reaching for my baby who I knew was somewhere down at the well’s bottom.

This child was born at the very end of the 20th century, in contemporary Vermont. Modern medicine made her life possible, and certainly saved my own, too. Every year, when I’m grateful for this young woman’s life, I remember the strangers who brought her into the world.

Happy February.

Starting Stick Season

At the end of our dead-end road, my neighbor and I call to each other, checking in, seeking news.

Their 5-year-old loves kindergarten, cut his own hair, lost his first tooth, and is learning to read.

My neighbor laughs at all this, holding a giant box of diapers. When they came down with a cold, he and his wife had to get a Covid test — negative! hurray! — and daycare has been screwed up as their provider had to get her own Covid test.

The old lilac bushes surrounding our houses turned a particularly pretty shade of gold this year, but those little leaves have fallen now. Across the cemetery from our two houses, one sugar maple determinedly holds its leaves, a shimmering reflective pool for sunlight in the afternoon.

And so life goes on.

The kindergartner jumps down the front porch steps, sees me, and points into his mouth. See!

From my distance, I nod and cheer. And so Saturday goes.

Driving Lessons

In the evening, as the dusk moves in, we play hearts on the back porch, my feet wet from watering the garden. It’s dry, with no rain in the forecast but thunderstorms possibly moving in this weekend.

After dinner and dishes, before I water, the 15-year-old drives, and I sit in the passenger seat. She’s largely on her own these days while I’m at work. In the high school parking lot, I get out of the car and watch her park and back up and park again, over and over. At last, she stops and leans out the window. She’s taken an extra key and put it on her first key ring, beside our house door.

She grins at me, full of exuberance and joy. “Want a ride?” she asks, then pulls up beside me, leans over, and opens the door. “Let’s take the long way home.”

The world? Moonlit
Drops shaken
From the crane’s bill.

— Eihei Dōgen

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Wild Discoveries

Walking through the town woods after dinner, listening to what must be one of the loveliest sounds on the planet — the wood thrush — my younger daughter says quietly, “Cub.”

Just ahead, where we were about step into a hayfield, a small black bear wandered, sniffing. We stood for a moment, admiring, then slowly backed away and headed back through the woods.

Walking, we remarked on the proliferation of wildlife we’ve seen this spring — the cub, bald eagles, a den of enchanting fox cubs just behind our house. While the human world is fragmented, the animal world seems to be filling in those cracks, closer and closer.

In Vermont’s May, every day the world appear more and more alive — the leaves unfurled more, and the dandelions higher. Sure, invasive dandelions have their place — or the curse — in the world, but a field of dandelions? Joy — thank goodness for spring.

Dear common flower, that grow’st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold,
First pledge of blithesome May…

James Russell Lowell

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New (Furry) Friend

My daughter was waiting on the trampoline when I came home from work the other day, sitting there waiting for me. We’re still in this crazy period where I’m almost always at home, but sometimes I head in.

She told me she made a new friend.

Seeing as there’s a pandemic and all, I was a little surprised. She took me around to the back porch and showed me a squirrel in a tree, just sitting there, hanging out in a branch.

My friend, she said. She’d been taking pictures of the creature.

So, that’s something. A teen who makes a friend with a brushy-tailed creature. Today, I sat on the porch all afternoon working. Off with her sister, she texted me, Has my friend returned?

Not yet. But I’m looking.

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Photo by Gabriela Stanciu