After a less-than-harmonious game of croquet, I lie back on the grass. Overhead, a rainbow. All this day, toiling away at things that may or may not matter…. and in this pause, a rainbow? Makes me wonder what else I missed.
Such a moon—
pauses to sing.
Behind a building in Burlington along Lake Champlain, with a ripe scent of eau de sewage, what did I hear in a nearby maple tree? Singing blackbirds!
I tossed my laptop and coat in my Toyota, covering the windshield scraper on the carseat, and walked along the icy and slushy parking. In the late afternoon, I stood beneath that tree. In the tree’s tiptop bare branches, the blackbirds gazed out at the lake, busily harmonizing.
A woman walked by with her down jacket zipped to her knees, hood tight over her head, walking a dog in a sweater. Time to unzip, let in a little sunshine, live a little.
Until the next ice storm.
“Mockingbirds” by Mary Oliver
in the green field
were spinning and tossing
the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing
better to do
…. Last weekend, driving to the other side of Vermont, I pulled over and read the Gazetteer to navigate through back roads. My daughter leaned forward from the backseat and asked, in complete seriousness, Are you actually reading a map?
Indeed, I was — and capably, I might add.
This morning, in the garden, I lifted my face to the mist-swaddled sky and wondered, Are you actually raining?
I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face…
— Don Paterson, “Rain”
The summer’s so brief and nearly unbearably beautiful in Vermont that I believe we stock up these days for the monotone of winter ahead. Maybe it’s different for families who travel a lot, who possess the luxury of multiple vacations, but the few days my girls and I camp each summer, sleeping beside lakes and under cool trees, return to us often in winter conversations…. Remember when the raccoons ate our food? When the canoe nearly tipped? When we watched the full moon rise from the breakwater?
— Wendel Berry
With both my daughters in their teens now, I spend a stupid amount of time thinking over what makes our lives, what fills our days, how has their childhoods unwound?
Yesterday, looking up from my laptop at the kitchen table, I realize this — kid with cat — is the main action around here. Thank goodness.
Before a Cat will condescend
To treat you as a trusted friend,
Some little token of esteem
Is needed, like a dish of cream…
— T. S. Eliot
Our Kitchen, Hardwick, Vermont
My 13-year-old daughter, after considerable thought, purchased in May a blow-up swimming floatie in the wedged shape of a piece of pizza. The only drawback, in her eyes, are two mushroom pieces on this pepperoni-and-green pepper pizza.
For the $8, this purchase has been hands-down one of the best in our family this year. Yesterday afternoon, swimming again, she and the two friends she’s known all her life drifted down the pond. I swam on my back looking up at the sky, watching two, utterly white clouds nearly touch each other before they drifted apart, disappearing over an oak tree.
On shore, I looked at the girls drifting and laughing, splashing, and then lay down and read Random Family, about life in the Bronx. Not so many years ago, I could never have imagined I would emerge from hovering over toddlers, and yet here I am, reading and taking notes while the girls swim happily. I was merely the transportation of girls and pizza floatie.
Finished, the girls gathered their towels and flip-flops and walked up the weedy path. They didn’t look back.