Reflective Waters.

Hello, November. Hello, time of reflection. Hello long holiday season, and all that complicatedness.

In that vein, here’s a few lines from Lawrence Weschler’s essay Vermeer in Bosnia.

… what that story [of Jesus parting the Sea of Galilee] is trying to tell us is simply that in times of storm, we mustn’t allow the storm to enter ourselves; rather, we have to find peace inside ourselves and breathe it out.”

I would add to this — do this through cooking or writing or knitting or painting the living room wall. Hands, hearts, and minds.

Resilience.

There’s few folks at the high school on a rainy late afternoon I appear. The November rain is soot-gray and cold as river stones. I haven’t been to a teacher conference in years now.

For a moment, I step into my life, six years ago, when my oldest daughter was in this same exact classroom, with this same teacher. He’s a parent now. I’m divorced, and I’ve published another book.

The majority of my daughter’s and her peers’ high school years have now been immersed in the pandemic. Her teacher reiterates, These kids are resilient.

I walk back out in an early twilight, removing my mask and breathing in the wet air. This is the strange, otherworldly time of year — twilight at four. There’s plenty of waking hours yet ahead of me — those games of Uno my daughter and I will play while she shares seagull-sized snippets of her day. We’ll cook bacon and eggs for dinner. In the dark, I’ll leave her to her homework, and I’ll drive to another town for a Development Review Board hearing. That night, I know it will be myself, alone, in that three-story former schoolhouse, fulfilling the state’s in-person requirement, while everyone else is in their living room. I know the meeting will be civil and pleasant and full of the open kindness I expect from these people. When we’re finished, I’ll fold up my laptop and stand for a moment outside again, beneath the door’s overhang, the rain pouring down, sparkling in that single outdoor light, small bits in the unbreakable darkness.

My own resilience is like a river stone, a worn-down, solid thing. Rain, darkness, the breeze from the lake hidden in the cedars. Kids, I think, kids. I carry that word kids home in my heart.

Postcard I received in the mail yesterday from Vermont Almanac — a second collection of Vermont writers due out shortly. How great is that?

Sink.

Sunday morning, I took my broken sink drain pieces to the hardware, laid them on the floor, and asked for help. At some point, I realized I’d need to be an active brainstorming participant, although, let’s face it, in the scheme of things, this isn’t exactly brain surgery.

I paid my twenty bucks and headed home.

Here’s the thing — when I began screwing these puzzle pieces together, I realized I’d have to go off script again. The floor drain was epoxied together, and then spraypainted white, as added glue.

I reached in my kitchen drawer and pulled out the super glue. Will it hold? Who knows.

But here’s the more important thing, the water’s flowing. Our kitchen is humming with cooking and cleaning again.

In these dim November days, I often find myself thinking back on my life, wondering what would have happened had I gone this way, or that way. Foolish, maybe, and definitely nonproductive. And yet, like a wound, I can’t help touching that.

Zen. Broken Sink Drain. A Meaningful Life.

back porch view

I’m lying on the couch reading Sigrid Rausing’s Mayhem when my daughter calls from the kitchen, ‘Mom, you’re not going to like this!’

The sink drain has split apart again and gray water floods the kitchen floor. For a moment, I think, whatever, and then ask her to get an old towel.

I have now repaired this drain three times, each time in nothing but sheer annoyance and impatience.

The problem, naturally, has something to do with PVC and epoxy, but more to do with me. My ex-husband put in this drain, in his trademark cob-job way, fitting together scraps of plastic pipe. I’m irritated at my own ineptness, my unwillingness to devote real time to YouTubing a solution, the scantness of my nonworking hours.

I’d rather paint a wall than repair a drain.

After we mop up the water and pile the unwashed dishes on the sink drainboard, we put on our boots and take a walk in the falling snow. It’s the first snowfall of the year. Snow is our old friend, falling silently, sparkling in house and streetlights. This first bit will melt today and return again soon.

Sunday morning. Put the house in order. Take the broken pieces to the hardware store. Ask for advice.

True recovery is a profoundly ethical journey, finding meaning and dignity through solidarity and restitution. Without that, there may be a cessation of drinking or substance use, but there is no real recovery.”

— Sigrid Lausing

Light a Candle. Keep It Alive.

Mt. Mansfield, Vermont

My daughters’ preschools had a sweet November festival called the Lantern Walk. The little kids each made their own lantern, from a mason jar or metal or wax, and strung it through with a wire. On a dark November evening, always right about now, the families arrived, and everyone took a walk through the woods with these candlelit lanterns, singing. The metaphor was, and is, immensely appealing.

In all my daughters’ lantern walks, the route often changed. One year, the teacher led the families down a steep hill. Rural Vermont is dark, dark, dark, on these November nights. The parents whispered to each other, fence here, and watch the big root.

These November days and nights, the wood stove is again glowing in our house and the wind blows over our hillside. Like Shakespeare’s play within a play, I remember those walks as Lantern Walk within a Long Lantern Walk.

On another note, State 14 ran an excerpt of Unstitched. It’s always such a pleasure to appear in this Vermont publication.

Late Fall Mud.

This photo sums up November — little remainders of green, intermittent mud, and a long road ahead. It’s not all bad news, for sure. November twilights are the loveliest — pale blue and blood red.

On Anne Sexton’s birthday, a line from this poet: “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” 

What could be better advice for November?