Last night, I attended a Development Review Board meeting where only I appeared in person. The other participants all dialed in via their laptops. When we finished, I closed the windows and then walked out, standing for a moment on the steps of the two-story building that had originally been built as the town’s high school. The door in the empty building had been open when I appeared. I closed it behind me.
It’s a strange way to hold a meeting. One small bit of strangeness in a year and a half now of utter weirdness.
Driving home, the air is otherworldly with smoke from fires on the other side of the continent. My daughter and I stand in the garden, and she wonders what the air smells like — it’s not the familiar scent of smoke from our chimney, or the neighbor’s stove. Nor is it pestilent, like a house burning down.
I weed a little while she tells me about her day. Dusk moves in. In the sweet, warm evening, we swim.
What? my older daughter said. You brought out the cards already?
I am determined to remained holed up. My older daughter, as a medical worker, comes and goes, but my younger daughter and I — we’re staying home.
So, honestly, what’s more reassuring than a deck of cards? I’ve been playing Crazy 8s since I was three — maybe younger? — and my kids likely can’t remember when they began. My whole life, we’ve always had packs of cards around.
Today, unexpectedly, I learned our internet speed is suddenly amped up, with no additional fee. Until when? my younger daughter asked. I read the email again and thought, What does when mean anymore?
I finally answered, Until we don’t. Right about then, I started shuffling cards.
In sorrow, pretend to be fearless. In happiness, tremble.
Kitchen, Day 2
In the dusk, children screamed as they sledded down a hill — so screechingly at first I worried they were injured. When I stepped around the garage, though, two children in raggedy snowsuits were laughing at the foot of a very short hill. The kids ran up, holding orange sleds.
I know I posted this last fall — but, again, here’s one of my favorite poems.
Although there is the road,
The child walks
In the snow.
— Murakami Kijo
And here’s my big kid, taking a holiday photo and begging me to please, try to smile!
Third snow day, and it’s only November. Driving from one side of the state to another, I travel through a landscape of gray — pavement, mountain — flanked by icy trees in that always questionable terrain around Bolton.
Then — the lake. I’m late already to work, with a list of things I absolutely want to do that day, check off, simply be finished with. But I turn around anyway, find a parking space and put an actual nickel in the meter, hoping no reader will be walking by in this snowy day.
The rain by then has turned to lacy snowflakes, the perfect kind for a child to lean back her head and open her mouth to catch a flake on her tongue. There’s no one out at all along the lake — improbably not even the dog walkers. Just all that snow, for just that moment.
You’re not searching.
How nice it is tonight.
Two birds fell asleep in your pocket.
— Yannis Ritsos
The day’s few hours of sunlight seemed distinctly February-ish — gold wild apples are still frozen to the tree.
November narrows down to the holidays, to that time of Vermont dark. The daughters decide to bake corn muffins — perhaps because of the color.
On impulse, I buy a small jar of raw honey at the co-op. 4:30 now, and the light is that pale pink and blue that reminds me of the sea. We’re warm, we’re well, our house is well-lit with little lights. I’ve stocked up on library books. The daughters are busy with their own stories and studies. I remind myself, It has not always been this way.
Time to close the curtains and start dough for empanadas.
If it’s darkness we’re having, let it be extravagant.
— Jane Kenyon
My daughters dropped me off for a dentist appointment — worse, an oral surgeon — appointment and disappeared to check out a mural in town.
I wait. I wait a little more. The appointment’s at the end of the day, and, as I’m waiting, darkness wraps around the little building. Later, my 14-year-old tells me she was outside in the dark, jumping up and down and waving her arms at me, watching me read.
Who sits in the dentist chair and just reads? she asks.
It’s an odd feeling — myself in a brilliantly lit chair, while my daughter’s outside in the dark, trying to get my attention.
As for the tooth, he looks at it and says, What a shame. The rest of your teeth are so good. I explained I injured the tooth many years ago, but I see he’s not really listening. He’s looking at that tooth. He’s thinking. I say, what’s the least bad way forward?
Then, alone in the room again, I wait and wait, no longer reading, thinking of the story of the tooth, that slender bit of enamel.
It’s nearly 6 p.m. when he returns with an insurance option. I agree, of course. When I walk out, my daughters roll down the windows in the car, laughing, teasing about taking forever….
Here’s my ode to silver maples in State 14.