A Postcard From Vermont…

…. might include a redwing blackbird suddenly rising from the stream behind the post office as you emerge from the weed-lined path with your brass key. The bird’s feathers hold the hue of burned-out embers.

Or a crumpled Bud Lite can propped neatly against the cinder blocks of the building’s foundation.

Or maybe cows crossing the road as you’re waiting behind a trash truck, the girls tossing cherry pits out the open windows.

Put your mouthful of words away
and come with me to watch
the lilies open in such a field,
growing there like yachts,
slowly steering their petals
without nurses or clocks.

— Anne Sexton

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Hardwick, Vermont

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Kid and Cat Hanging Out

With both my daughters in their teens now, I spend a stupid amount of time thinking over what makes our lives, what fills our days, how has their childhoods unwound?

Yesterday, looking up from my laptop at the kitchen table, I realize this — kid with cat — is the main action around here. Thank goodness.

Before a Cat will condescend
To treat you as a trusted friend,
Some little token of esteem
Is needed, like a dish of cream…

— T. S. Eliot

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Our Kitchen, Hardwick, Vermont

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Monday Morning, Back to Work

When my little daughter was three, one morning in the kitchen she noticed the orange day lilies had opened their buds, and she ran upstairs to her sister, calling, Willies! Willies, sissy!

Yesterday, driving around Vermont — perhaps in an attempt to shake off a funk — day lilies bloomed everywhere, colorful masses along the roadside and white clapboard meeting houses and tiny shacks with fantastic views of green and blue mountains.

Fully into July now, I know our summer will be filled with work — some terrific and some not so — with the family complexities of single parenting, of keeping our life not only cohesive but creative. There’s lists of things I’d like to do — climb the Underhill route to Mansfield’s summit, paint the trim, plant two fruit trees — but lying in bed this morning, listening to the songbirds crack open the daybreak, I decided to par this down to one single thing: swim in the pond until the water grows cold and hostile. I lay there thinking that’s free to do, and then wondered when I had lost the sense of free in this life might be.

… (the day lily is) coarse and ordinary and it’s beautiful because
it’s ordinary. A plant gone wild and therefore become
rugged, indestructible, indomitable, in short: tough, resilient,
like anyone or thing has to be in order to survive.

— David Budbill, from “The Ubiquitous Day Lily of July”

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Sudbury, Vermont

 

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Summer, 13

My 13-year-old daughter, after considerable thought, purchased in May a blow-up swimming floatie in the wedged shape of a piece of pizza. The only drawback, in her eyes, are two mushroom pieces on this pepperoni-and-green pepper pizza.

For the $8, this purchase has been hands-down one of the best in our family this year. Yesterday afternoon, swimming again, she and the two friends she’s known all her life drifted down the pond. I swam on my back looking up at the sky, watching two, utterly white clouds nearly touch each other before they drifted apart, disappearing over an oak tree.

On shore, I looked at the girls drifting and laughing, splashing, and then lay down and read Random Family, about life in the Bronx. Not so many years ago, I could never have imagined I would emerge from hovering over toddlers, and yet here I am, reading and taking notes while the girls swim happily. I was merely the transportation of girls and pizza floatie.

Finished, the girls gathered their towels and flip-flops and walked up the weedy path. They didn’t look back.

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Diving In

This in-between holiday week, our unstated goal has been to swim twice a day — in the midday hard heat and in the dusky evening, when the surface of the water holds warmth and our feet trail into the cooler eddies beneath.

We’re drinking our fill of milkweed blossoms, the reflection of clouds in rippling ponds, ice cream cones — as if this stockpiling might carry into the white and gray palette of Vermont’s winter.

I wonder what became of
purity. The world is a
complex fatigue….
(The geranium flowers) are clusters of richness
held against the night in quiet
exultation, five on each branch,
upraised. I bought it myself
and gave it to my young wife
years ago, in a plastic cup
with a 19cent seedling
from the supermarket, now
so thick, leathery-stemmed,
and bountiful with blossom.

— Hayden Carruth, “August First”

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Hardwick, Vermont

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Independence Day, 2018

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?

…  your denunciation of tyrants…  mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.

— Frederick Douglass, 1852

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Montpelier, Vermont

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Yes, Summer

My 13-year-old wraps an ice pack in a kitchen towel and gently rubs it along her cat’s hot paws. The furry creature nuzzles his head against the cold pack. Hot, hot, the cats lie on the wood floor, panting.

Viridescence begins this July, these very long days slick with humidity, turbulent with thunderstorms, the domestic garden and wild woods pulsing, rampaging green — growing headlong, magnificently wild.

This slice of summer is the season of cousins, of sprawling sunsets and lingering dusk, s’mores, and the overarching goal for today: swimming.

In a New Hampshire river, my daughter stands at the edge of a waterfall — the rocks around us radiating heat, the water so cold the small bones in our feet ache. She disappears behind the waterfall, wholly hidden by the frothing water, then emerges blinking and drenched, her smile luminescent.

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

— Takahama Kyoshi

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