Shape of May

I always imagine Medieval life as so much field around all those storied castles. In May, the Vermont landscape is wide open. The forest aren’t leafed out yet. The bushes are sticks without greenery. The shape of the land is there for the looking.

The comparison ends there, I know. Contemporary Vermont isn’t bound by class or infused with religion. No holy temples are built here, save what each family builds for themselves.

But there’s still all this land, fallow, ready for seed. All this potential, of yet another growing year.

Singing, planting rice,
village songs more lovely
than famous city poems.

— Basho


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Ode to Dirt

While my youngest cleaned out her chicken house, I kicked apart the compost and did a little ‘reorganizing’ of black earth — that chocolate for plants — mushy sunflower stalks from last October, paired with last week’s old rice.

Outside all afternoon, I remembered why I love living in this house, on this village hillside, in Vermont — especially when I found a cluster of heart-shaped leaves on the south side of our house, tucked up against the foundation wall, soaking up sun. The blossoms were the purest of white, the tiny petals streaked with deep purple. Common violets.

In this season of growth, four teens in my kitchen…..



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Gold Smudge

My work these days reflects the weather’s dreariness — grant-writing — work I implicitly believe I should feel jazzed and excited about — and maybe I will, maybe I’ll get there, but grants so often feel like closed doors, of no room at the inn and all.

To counteract that — and the terrible string of cancer deaths from a Waldorf school where my daughter was once a student — I’m holing up reading novels. Despite the rain, my daughters and I are in the woods every day. Even on late days when I’m at work, they send me photos. One daughter is just out of childhood, the other has but a handful of years left. Observing them, I wonder what of my parenting will stick with them.

The younger daughter and I found our first unopened trillium yesterday. The older daughter asked the blossom’s color. The younger asked if it mattered. Yes, her sister answered.

Everywhere, yellow smears of blossoming forsythia.

The short summer night.
The dream and real
Are same things.

— Natsume Soseki


Croquet before the green….

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Hurray! May!

The May I was pregnant with my second child, rain fell every one of those 31 days — from a few sprinkles to all-day, shiver-inducing soakers. There’s an old adage, or so I’m told, that the rainier the May, the hotter the summer. That year, at least, was so.

Silage corn pushed through the black earth in the days after her birth, tiny nubs of green.

Under cherry trees
there are
no strangers.

— Issa


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Sticks and Girl

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.


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Crisis of Faith

Exiting the interstate at midnight last night in rainy St. Johnsbury, it’s just me in my little silver car, the strange combination of lonely hearts’ radio and tinny country music, and that profound country Vermont darkness. That stretch of interstate rims the outer edge of utter nowhere.

Year ago, returning from a trip to my sister and her husband and their hospital-bound infant, my brother and I had trouble finding his snow-covered truck in the New Hampshire airport parking lot. Maybe it was midnight already, maybe not, but we certainly passed it, driving north on the interstate, where we stopped at a gas station and bought (and drank) terrible coffee. We were so tired we laughed until we were too tired to laugh, and then too tired to talk. Finally, at his house, his wife sat on the stairs and offered us take-out Indian food. I lay on the kitchen floor. Possibly, I even slept there, in a pile of boots and cat food bowls.

The next day, my friend and her 4-year-old drove over the White Mountains in a snowstorm to bring me home to my family — and my four-year-old. At the top of the Crawford pass, I got out of the pickup and brushed snow from the windshield and stood for a moment in all that white, not sure entirely where the unplowed road lay.

But I got back in. Her son waited patiently in his carseat between us. She kept driving. What else could we do? We couldn’t stay there. And, that, perhaps, is all I ever needed to learn about faith.

Miraculously, the snow lessened as we neared the Connecticut River, heading home.


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Sacred Spring

T. S. Eliot who famously wrote April is the cruelest month did not live in Vermont, where we have much crueler seasons. Like January.

Yesterday, on my way from work to a grant-writing workshop, I returned home and changed from a sundress to jeans and sweater (again), but the robins are under the trees, wrenching out live worms. Daffodils splash.

Take what goodness you can get: I hold this as a mantra of single motherhood, but that’s likely my own solipsism. Vermont spring, while inevitably snowy in places, is a ubiquitous joy.

The workshop was held on the second floor of a gorgeous community art center, where I admired the artwork and the particularly pleasant shade of lavender on the walls. Last year, I was knocked out in the final round of this competitive grant; this year, I partook liberally of their snacks and chocolate, a kind of boon.

In this State 14my daughter’s rock garden appears.

There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.

— Wendell Berry


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