Losing Our Leaves

Here’s this in my sometimes too-much-adult world: my 14-year-old and her friends have been diligently doing odd jobs for weeks now — stacking wood, planting bulbs, painting, and raking leaves.

She showed me a photo today of herself and the friend she’s known for years leaping backwards into an enormous pile of leaves they’d raked. I sure hope the homeowner laughed as hard as I did.

We did not come to remain whole.
We came to lose our leaves like the trees,
The trees that are broken
And start again, drawing up on great roots;
Like mad poets captured by the Moors,
Men who live out
A second life.

— Robert Bly

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Wanderlust, Home

We’re at the Burlington airport at four in the morning, in a rainy darkness, in that discombobulated airport way — where the everyone in town seems to be at the airport and then, outside, it’s just me and my teen driving through intersections amped down to blinking lights.

The way is familiar, but the night is so solid — and, honestly, I’m so tired — that we might be in upper New York state for all I know, and not Vermont, or maybe wandered farther away, all the down to mountainous Virginia.

The commuter traffic begins only as we’re nearly home. Then, with still an hour and a half before high school starts for the day, my daughter walks around the house, doing this, that, and finally stares at me on the couch. I close my lap and ask simply, Yes?

She looks out the window where the dawn is trying mightily hard to push away some of the dusk. Wanderlust, I see. There’s nothing more to say.

“There are days when I feel I am becoming good at what I do. And then I wonder, what does it mean to be good at this?”

— Francisco Cantú, The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches From the Border (elegantly written by a former border patrol officer — I can’t recommend this book enough)

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Photo by Molly B.

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Potato Pie Antidote

My oldest daughter texts me early this morning — she’s driven through slush to get to work. And so it begins, the snowy season. The days already burn low, dim by late afternoon. It’s Not the Swimming Season.

To counteract, I contemplate potatoes. Sausage and potato pie? I ask my youngest. Cook together?

Having lived in New England for most of my life, this side of the stick season is familiar to me, intimately so. During Saturday’s sunny afternoon, I coil up the garden hose, pull weeds from the garden, play soccer with my girl, then lie on the grass while she samples bitter apples.

My father sends good news — it’s Arkhipov Day — a celebration of a man who served humanity and not the nation-state. Read details here.

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Domestic Chaos, Evening Pleasure

We’re eating pumpkin pie made with not enough maple syrup. In the scheme of things, that’s pretty darn minor. The kids, I’ve noticed, have stored the maple syrup in the cabinet above my head — which, no biggie, I could easily stand on a chair per usual and help myself. Nonetheless, why bother?

The bathtub drained is plugged, the chickens wandered on the back porch and shit, we’ve eaten brown rice for three days now and no one seems in the least interested in leftovers. It’s autumn, sometime, pretty leaves all fallen and withering.

Dusk, I walk a few loops around the high school. A flock of starlings sweeps over the sky and perches in the bare branches of a maple tree, chittering. Back at my car, my daughter and her friend are on the hood of my car, laughing at something — maybe me? — hungry. They’ve been making “guts” for a Halloween project, but ran out of red food dye to mix with their Vaseline and corn starch.

Really? I say. What’s the recipe? In the thickening gloaming, I sit on my car hood, too, listening, as if there’s all the time in the world.

…we are everything, every experience we’ve ever had, and in some of us, a lot of it translates and makes patterns, poems. But, my God, we don’t even began to touch upon it. There’s an enormous amount, but we can touch such a little.

— Ruth Stone

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Teen World

This blog has been jammed with soccer, soccer and even more soccer all fall — a little odd, from a woman who ducks every time the soccer ball heads even anywhere near me along the sidelines.

But the soccer field and the locker room and the school bus is the terrain of my teenage daughter this year. The night of the game under the lights I walked across the field afterward — in a coat and hat and scarf, the first snowflakes tiny glitters — and realized I was treading in her familiar space.

It’s such a cliché — the days crawl and the years fly — but there’s truth in all these clichés, too. When she was an infant, I realized — busy as I was then with another child and that relentless maple syrup business — that this was all I was going to get in this life. Just this second time around of being a new mother. That sentiment has carried all through her life, crazy and jumbled as it’s been, defined as a single parent household. And yet here she is, on a soccer field, laughing and happy with girls and their ponytails. I can’t help but wonder curiously, Where will all these running steps on those soccer fields around Vermont carry her in this life?

We create meanings from our unconscious interpretation of early events, and then we forge our present experiences from the meaning we’ve created. Unwittingly, we write the story of our future from narratives based on the past…

— Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

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Time Warp

So here’s a weird thing….. not long before dusk on Sunday, I was at the (closed) Goddard College library. I was there to record a small radio piece.

Save for myself, there’s no one on campus, so I wandered around. A few years ago, the college converted to low-residency programs. The campus now — with some buildings disintegrating into moss and rot — has an odd Planet-of-the-Apes-ish feeling.

I expected to read shortly some writing about the collapsing American Empire. For a few moments there, I wondered if I’d hit a time warp…..

We are inclined to think of hunters and gatherers as poor because they don’t have anything; perhaps better to think of them for that reason as free.

Marshall Sahlins

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Away Game

Leaves drift through the air wherever I go these days, in autumn’s near-constant breeze, whooshing out of sight.

At a high school soccer game beneath lights, bundled in boots and hats, we watch the boys cheer for the girls. In the second half, the boys brush off an impending fight with a rival team. For just a moment, we wonder, Which way will this go? Overhead, Vs of geese call loudly, heading out of here, south. The scent of frying hamburgers tantalizes.

The high school’s the most run-down I’ve seen in Vermont, the field patchy, dwarfed by an enormous research facility for adult work, gleaming in the setting sun. Somehow, we have the sense the adults’ cafeteria serves up finer fare than subsidized school lunch. My daughter’s high school is one of the state’s scrappier — no secret there — but much more moves beneath the sailing soccer balls.

All the long drive home, the river swallowed up in the dark, we talk and talk and talk, passing the time and the miles, our two headlights illuminating the first traces of snow.

Home through the woods,
through the chill rain.

The last leaves down
and sodden on the ground.

The end of autumn...

—David Budbill

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