In the night, a wild wind throws rain through my bedroom window. It’s before midnight. At twilight, the maples shimmered with a rosy-golden light, but our world has shifted. The wind’s tempestuous, shaking the storm against my house, driving away that autumn dreaminess.
The cats and I are awake. I lie on the couch, reading Ducks. Our little world has seen a proliferation of cats recently — a gray one the neighbors’ boys named Follower, a glossy black, a white-and-brown tabby, a tortoiseshell. The light on the back porch kicks on when the cats, one by one, appear, sodden, and then race off again. A raccoon sniffs my sandals I’ve left out beneath the overhang. My two cats stare through the window, mesmerized.
All night long, all day long, leaves fall. The butternut tree I planted a five years ago is skinny trunk and branch. Magnificently golden, the neighbors’ maples shed their leaves into a giant carpet. Their little boys rake and burrow. As their top branches reveal their starkness, the height of these trees soars above our houses.
October, and midday the light is tinged with sootiness as the sun bends away from my place on the earth. Whether it’s the pandemic or where I am in life, the old patterns I knew for years have splintered, fractured. To my list I write long before dawn, I add: cover the garden with leaves.
The water wheel spins holding up the milky way, and then spills it out.
14 years ago yesterday, I sat in my friend’s kitchen nursing my newborn while she labored to bring into the world her daughter. Her mother-in-law served me a bowl of chicken soup from an enormous pot she had cooked.
Returning from a walk yesterday evening, I spy my daughter reading on front porch with her cats. Those days with an infant I hardly had a sense of evening from afternoon, in that churning wheel of nursing and diapers and tending.
Time passing threads all through my writing — how can it not? — and yet, sometimes I find myself staring through a window, thinking, here we are, right at this very moment.
The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.
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.
My daughter picks at dirt on the cuff on her jeans, troubled by this, which interests me. She’s a remarkably easy and even-tempered girl, and I sometimes wonder at her own and distinctive understanding of the world’s order.
In my bare root order, I have a handful of what seem to be sticks with filigreed root balls. Walking behind our garden in the damp April evening, she asks me if I’ll still live here when these sticks become trees.
I’m planting for the property, I answer. That answer suffices for her. She stands with me, as we envision stick widening into trunk, twig fattening into branch.
Saturday morning, the snow is above my knees on the long path from the parking lot to the library. Halfway up the door, the snow has blown off the school’s soccer field, and I tug the door open. Snow and I tumble in.
A patron shows up while I’m shoveling, his glasses fogged with snow. He’s walking in my footsteps, and he’s laughing. Why do we live in Vermont?
After dinner, my oldest daughter asks her sister and I to go on a walk with her. Cold but not that cold, we walk against the landscape of sunset.
No one else save a few pickups pass us. A flock of geese flies inexplicably south. This whole long walk I remember exactly why I live in Vermont. We return after 7:30 and it’s not yet full dark.
Thaw. First thing, when I step outside the kitchen, I smell melting snow, the slightly sweet and fecund scent of the earth in just a few patches—the flower pot I’ve left outside on the deck all winter.
Some days, we have long days, beginning before dawn and packed full of so much. Some afternoons linger, but those are few now, sparse, far beyond those countless hours of nursing, when time was swallowed in baby care.
After dinner, the 13-year-old walks down our road with me, not far at all. Waiting for her while she puts her chickens away for the night, I lean against the barn door, gazing through the twilight. I’ve never lived in a house with the sky so open overhead. On a ridge, we look down into the shallow, mist-covered valley, where the town, at dusk, is beautiful, flickering bits of lights.
We’re so many months yet from working outside on the deck, me and the chittering birds, the sunlight on my keyboard and hands. But it’ll come: this reprieve is a reminder of spring, a certain promise of evening swims again.