Stacked Deck.

In the evening, we play cards. For years, I had this inner narrative unspooling, about living on the edge of the wilderness, the cold a near constant companion for a good portion of the year. Now, returning from work to a chilly but not cold house, I remember keenly how that narrative began when I was a young woman, living in an uninsulated apartment, reading about polar expeditions.

The cold, indeed, makes us more alive. Too much cold, however, deadens us, too.

Our deck of cards has a few duplicates — additional sixes and eights and two Jacks of Diamonds. We have another, unpadded deck, but I have a particular fondness for this one that bends the rules and mixes our games in funny ways.

January. My inner narratives keep unwinding. Cold. Kids. Cats. Writing that nourishes my soul.

William Carlos Williams’ lines about this winter month:

Again I reply to the triple winds
running chromatic fifths of derision
outside my window:
                                  Play louder.
You will not succeed.

Mud. Snow. Ice. What Next?

I met a friend yesterday, and we took a walk we’ve journeyed in various seasons — in bright green spring, in the summer when we admired flower gardens along houses. Yesterday, we walked through frozen mud ruts and sprinkles of rain, the jumbled up season and time of where we are.

On this New Year’s Day, I’m passing along a VTDigger story written by Kevin O’Connor about a Vermont couple’s 4,000 World War II letters. A history lesson and a love story — isn’t that what we need right now?

Kent’s Corners, Calais, Vermont

Walking with Skis.

Greensboro, Vermont

Someday, maybe I’ll look back at this photo of my daughter on the Christmas she was sixteen…. goodness, what will I be thinking then?

In the late afternoon, I ski up through the woods to where the farm fields meet the forest in two strands of electric fence. The fence is off now, and the fields are empty of grazers, save for the odd crow that picks in a bare spot. The day, although not sunny, has warmed, and snow clumps on my skis. The skis need waxing, which I haven’t done. Instead, I take the skis off and shoulder them, and walk down the trail through the few inches of snow.

These days, I’m working hard, the outside world coming at me in a fury. In the evening, we play cards. I’ve picked up a copy of a Mark Sundeen book that reminds me of my idealistic youth and a happy summer we spent in a tipi. The circumstances have changed; the world has changed, indeed, since my wild twenties; but the questions are the same.

I take the long trail back home through the woods, despite carrying my skis. At a stream, I stop. The ice hasn’t yet completely skimmed over the rocks. I pull off my mitten and dip my fingers in, the water so clear and cold.

How can a man hope to promote peace in the world if he has not made it possible in his own life and his own household?” 

― Mark Sundeen, The Unsettlers: In Search of the Good Life in Today’s America

Happenstance. Here.

Greensboro, Vermont

Christmas Day, in a light, almost-a-cold-mist rain over a few inches of old snow, we took one of our favorite walks in Greensboro, on Nature Conservancy Land at Barr Hill. Flanked by old sugar maples, the path goes through former farm fields and among 19th century stone walls. So this walk feeds my desire for history and also for the cold rawness of today in our faces. We meet not a single soul, not even a crow.

At the top, the view is obscured by clouds, the lake with its summer pleasures of kayaking and swimming occluded by winter.

We may be at the edge of the world, but what does that mean anymore? In our family, we’ve had both wonderful and terrible Christmases. As we drive, we say, remember the time…?

On Christmas evening, we drive, my teenager at the wheel, in search of colored lights. I keep my own entirely adult cynicism to myself, my snarky thoughts about the crumbling American Empire and how long will the boondoggle of electricity keep flowing for us. Instead, I tease my oldest daughter about her headlights. Are the headlights even on? I ask.

In my book interviews, this fall and winter, I’ve repeated over and over, that, by happenstance, each of us arrive in a time and place. The few us walk a downtown street, beneath glowing lights. We pass a gleaming white BMW, its engine running, no sign of a driver. A little further, I stop and read a sign at a creche, acknowledging the small figurines are on unceded Abenaki land.

The rain keeps falling in little bits. The youngest navigates us home, through mist and darkness, despite the poor headlights.

(And thank you, Barre Montpelier Times Argus, for the great interview.)

The night is so cold

even in bed it keeps me

wide awake.”

— Buson

Winter Things.

On the cow shed

A hard winter rain;

Cock crowing.”

— Buson

My daughter “relocates” a plastic pink flamingo. The prank is insanely refreshing to me. I’m on a long string of evening meetings, negotiating the adult world in all its complexities, and I surface now and then, checking back into the kid realm. She makes hot chocolate, complains about a lengthy reading assignment.

Early winter: ice over the compost bin. A red cardinal noshing at the feeder. The hard whack of an ax through firewood.

Here’s a link to my commentary in VTDigger.

Elmore, Vermont

Scant Speaking.

The afternoon takes me around two lakes in a kind of work I relish. One visit involves a visit with a contractor at a house he’s building. We muse how water seeks its own wise course. As I drive away, I keep thinking about the immense boulders a king-sized excavator unearthed from that mucky soil. The boulders are some of the most righteous beings I’ve met in weeks.

On my way home, I stop at the high school and take a brisk walk through the woods before an evening meeting. I see someone I know, and we talk about projects at the high school, what money is coming in, and what’s still needed. These days, I often find myself in terse conversations with acquaintances, as though we’re all gnawing a cigarette between our teeth, our backs against a proverbial wall, eyeing the horizon.

Then I’m on my way, and he to his.