I stopped for a flock of crows this morning on my drive to work, half a dozen or so of them, pecking at roadkill. In the slow way of November, the birds contemplated me and then turned back to their feast.
For a moment, I got out of the car, just me and the crows and the morning too cold to be damp. Eight crows, two yellow lines, one dead tree, and all that snowy field and sky around me.
Driving, I had been thinking of the poet Lucille Clifton, who wrote the saddest poem I’ve ever read, “The Lost Baby Poem.” The poem that needs no commentary, nothing further.
Clifton wrote about sorrow, but plenty more, too. She advised, “You might as well answer the door, my child,/the truth is furiously knocking.” It’s a line I’ve returned to over and over in my life, one of my guiding stars. This November morning, cawing crows opened my Subaru door.
I knock off work early on Friday afternoon and head west with a friend to our daughters’ soccer game. There’s only so many high school soccer games I’ll attend in my lifetime; I’ve missed plenty this year.
It’s October but feels weirdly like July, with 75 degree temps, sunlight on foliage that’s at peak color. As I drive towards Lake Champlain, the terrain flattens. At the game, where we meet another mother and sprawl on the grass, seagulls swoop low. Flocks of geese fly overhead, forming Vs. At the end, despite the loss, our girls are smiling, hugging us in their sweat-soaked jerseys.
As the sun slips below the horizon, I drive back along that same route, retracing our blue highway journey from flat farming land through the green mountains and along the winding Lamoille River. I keep on through the twilight. A crescent moon hangs to our right. We talk and talk, about the complexity of being teenage females in our world, and then beyond that, too, how the past steers our own lives, hammering through generations.
As I drive, my headlights cutting through the darkness, I keep thinking of Joseph Campbell, whose voluminous writings on myth shaped my thinking since I was a teenager. “Life is, in its very essence and character, a terrible mystery—this whole business of living by killing and eating. But it is a childish attitude to say no to life with all its pain, to say that this is something that should not have been.”
At my house, we stand for a moment beneath the starlight. In my house, our upstairs glass-in porch glows, where my older daughter is taking notes, her laptop streaming a class. My friend drives away, back to her house, but I stand there for a moment longer. I’ve long resisted what I’ve seen as the superficiality of Be Here Now, as though the past doesn’t matter. Suddenly I see I’ve looked at what time means all the wrong way. Be here now with the past — another koan.
I walk up the back steps and flick on the porch light for my youngest child.
….. A few last things. Here’s a New York Times piece on IG and teen girls. Rick Agran of Bon Mot, a show about poetry and the literary arts, on the local Goddard College radio, will broadcast my Galaxy Bookshop event this Sunday, October 10, at 5 p.m.
Last, the Children’s Literacy Foundation hosts a virtual Book Club for Grown-Ups I’ll host, next Friday, October 15, at 7 p.m. The Waterbury Roundabout has details. I have a particular soft spot for CLiF — an organization that gives free books to kids in rural New Hampshire and Vermont. How cool is that??
We’re at the point in Vermont’s fall where our world makes me ask, What’s happening? but in the loveliest, most wonderful way. The fall colors are stunningly gorgeous — so much vibrant red, so many shades of gold — the trees silently going about their business. Our hillsides are amazing, but so is each tree an individual marvel.
We’d had rainy day upon rainy day, but the weather looks to be clearing, at least for a short stretch. In New England, heading into later fall, sunlight can be sparse. These handful of days are the time to soak up color and light.
When I stopped on Hardwick’s Main Street to snap this photo yesterday, a man walking by said, “Winter’s not far.”
True, but at the moment, autumn in all her radiance.
I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
Our cucumbers withered and died this year, producing little. For years, I’ve built my little mounds and buried seeds or planted my seedlings. This year, the extreme heat, the fluctuations of cold and rain, and sultry heat again, made the vines lie down and quit.
The queen of my garden is the sunflower, their golden faces open high above my head, friend to the sparrows and finches who dart through their stalks.
In the face of grim news, I offer this as a tiny sliver: the sunflowers are growing mightily. Bees are fattening.
Much of my library work these days is talking and listening. Hey, how’s it going? What’s happening? When I listen a little longer, I hear stories of ordinary lives in upheaval — families separated, folks trying to figure out some kind of future.
I hand out books — mostly fiction and mysteries. And I often step outside the library where we keep talking and talking. From the school’s vegetable garden beds, I pick cucumbers and send patrons home with pickle fixings.
That’s about all I have to offer; that little will have to suffice.
In my own garden, the zinnias have gone brushy and wild, brilliant pink. Radishes have flowered and gone to seed. Late afternoons, I wander, barefoot on the cold soil, taking in the colors, breathing the spicy scent of arugula.
Before long, frost will be nipping at my garden, but for now, the pollinators are hungry, the crickets are singing, and these ragged-petaled flowers are nothing short of miraculous.
Sunday morning finds us walking in the rain on Nature Conservancy property — a place I’ve visited for over two decades now. We meet another couple walking a small pug. Other than that, no one other than cows.
We walk along old farm roads, flanked by towering maples, looking for wild raspberries. The rain warms into a humid mist.
Immense maple, white quartz, rusting barbed wire fences, myriad shades of green. Here’s where we are, and nowhere else.
At home, the garden has grown half-wild, the cosmos taller than my head. That evening, eating sausage and onions and peppers, we sit outside, talking. Even for the teenager, everything drops away — maybe school? maybe soccer practice? — as the warm August evening slowly pushes in.
A crescent moon lights the sky over our house. My oldest yawns. There’s nothing else but this moment.