Sign of Spring, Hardwick, VT #9

Come what may — more April snowflakes, cold rain, glittery frost in the weeds against the barn — in our corner of Vermont we’ve stepped across the line to spring.

Yesterday, in a chilly rain, my daughters and I peered beneath the pear trees and along the thicket of roses, now merely a brown tangle of prickly vines. But the earth reeked of thaw, of soil melting its cold frozen heart, releasing its mysteries of worm and grasping root.

Thaw begins not with warmth, but with the subtle gradations of less cold. And how darn good our earth smells, breathing.

Sparrow singing–
its tiny mouth

— Buson


Far Travels

Here’s something I never told my daughters: the summer I was 19, the hitchhiking tour of New England my then-boyfriend and I took ended in a convertible ride from Springfield, MA, up I-91 to Brattleboro. The car was an enormous old beauty from the 1950s, and the boyfriend sat up front and talked nonstop with the driver, an ebullient pilot of his darn cool car. I sprawled in the back, the wind wildly noisy, holding my hair out of my face with both hands.

I was 19, in lust but not in love with the boyfriend, and I knew I wouldn’t marry him, as he doubtlessly knew he would never marry me. But we were both at that age of no longer child but not really adult, and we were madly in love with the world, with just the sheer possibility of living.

Every now and then, I think back to my younger self, flying up that interstate in a stranger’s car, my legs stretched out on the red leather seat, with no seatbelt tethering me in, admiring all that sky gradually darkening into a bloody July sunset.

I wear seatbelts now. I never hitchhike. My daughters sleep under a solid roof, in a well-built and deeply insulated house. My older daughter is 18, and I think of this story sometimes when she’s headed off with her friends. I say the same things my parents said intently to me, Drive safely. Keep your eyes open. Come home.

I stand in the doorway, watching her leave. What are you doing? she asks. And when I say, humor me, humor me, she’s gracious enough to do so.

It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened…

– Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn






Last night by the light of a crescent moon and the setting sun, the long red-earth rows of raised potato beds held shadows in their furrows, while all around was the sweetly pink sky, the cumulus clouds scudding across the blackening sky.

On the shore nearby, beach glass abounds, allegedly from numerous shipwrecks. On these pristine June days, I imagine the manifolds secrets buried unreachably far down. Swimming today in easy waves, I emerged with a salty mouthful, the brine of sweat and birth – of the sea.

“Dear old world’, she murmured, ‘you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables


Photo by Molly S.

And Grace….

When I attended Sunday School briefly as a child, I remember reading about the Resurrection in a paper booklet and studying an illustration of Christ standing in a white robe beside a boulder, his clean hands outstretched to a gape-mouthed Mary, his hair neatly brushed. What the heck was that about?

The presentation was like reading Macbeth on Disney character flash cards. How would this be possible? Why would it even be desirable?

Hallmark’s proliferation of bunnies and tulips to the contrary, this holiday is a mystery, bloody and ethereal within a span of days, a profoundly condensed version of human life.

More than anything else what I resent about that sanitized illustration is the belying that the crucifixion is also the story of nearly unbelievable persistence, of a man who endured physical torture, an extreme crisis of faith, and phenomenal resilience against the human tendency to flee when the going gets tough. Over and over, I’ve met that Joseph Campbell line “you must be wiling to give up the life you’ve planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” On this Easter morning, I’m reminded again that the price of grace is fiercely earned, and, yet, eternally possible.

…modern people have seen too many chemicals and are ready to go back to eating dirt.

– Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History


library book reading…

Stranger’s Gift

A friend stops by the library on my shift and offers hand-me-downs from her coworker I’ve never met. I lift pastel cotton t-shirts, a linen skirt, an embroidered sleeveless blouse: summer things that whisper to me of sunnier days, bare feet on grass, a season not too far off in Vermont’s snowy April but requiring memory and imagination.

At the paper bag bottom are two handmade sweaters. A knitter myself, I lift the blue one and immediately see this is a pattern I would have loved to knit, in this well-spun wool. The knitter was ordered, with evenly placed buttons and mirror sleeve caps, and practical, too: one cuff has a pattern slip I might have made and not redone.

While my friend keeps talking, I ease my arms into the sweater, and, although I’m so small I’m nearly in the land of the Oompla Loompas, the cardigan fits me perfectly, all the way down to the right length of sleeves, as if this unknown creator was my doppelgänger.

The second, white sweater I merely admire with my fingertips and leave for someone else, whose name I’ll never know.

Don’t touch my plumtree!
Said my friend and saying so…
Broke the branch for me.

– Bashō


Photo by Gabriela


10,000 Things

My math-loving daughter, seeing a page scrawled in my handwriting, asked me what this 10,000 things is all about. I could say infinite multiplicity; I could say maya or phenomena. Or how about something that make might more sense, like September 5th in all its richly earthly Vermont splendor, the seed buds of jewelweed popping between your fingers and the little black crickets singing you to sleep. Watermelon juice on your chin and your sister’s long fingers brushing your hair. Today. Us.

The banana tree
blown by winds pours raindrops
into the bucket

–– Basho