Sweetness

Rain.

This May has been exceptionally beautiful, with a profusion of blossoms and warmth. Living in a village now, we reap the benefits of lingering outdoors in the evenings, with no black flies gnawing our bare skin.

In this vaccinated world, a headiness rears, too. My daughters are suddenly gone, this way and that, one grown up, the other nearly so.

In the evening, I sit on the covered back porch, breathing in the scents of lilacs and rain.

The drama of spring unfolds around all of us, blessedly so, this year.

Vermont Spring Palette

I leave work in the middle of the day, to take my daughter from here to there. A downpour has suddenly stopped, and sunlight sparkles over the wet world. We drive with the windows and sunroof open, the breeze blowing in. Although both girls have had Covid, and I’m vaccinated, we’re wearing masks. When won’t we be wearing masks?

The girls talk about classes, and I tune out, listening to their voices. We pass clumps of golden daffodils. On my way back to work, I drive through fields of green so brilliant I blink.

All around me, the human world feels fraught these days with chaos, both self-inflicted and not. Meanwhile, the earth pushes alive with spring. In the evening, walking up a dirt road, I look back at my daughters beneath an enormous maple, its branches still bare. Behind us, the mountains hold a deep blue. The peepers chorus, and the red-wing blackbirds sing sweetly.

It may yet snow again this week. Meanwhile, spring.

We walk up the road and down through the cedar forest, where the path is black earth. We linger so long that we walk home in the dark.

“Walking . . . is how the body measures itself against the earth.” 

— Rebecca Solnit

Mighty Wildflowers

Blue squill reappears in our front yard and over the hill behind our house, in the thickets of wild raspberry canes — tiny flowers that sprinkle color in our landscape that is otherwise brown dirt and gray mountain.

In the rough patches of roadsides and rocky ditches, coltsfoot springs up. Along the brick school gymnasium, I discover blooming dandelions.

These tiny flowers, some no larger than my thumbnail, are mighty tough. There’s a lesson here, I know, as I crouch in that tangle of thorny vines, admiring a clump of starflowers. That lesson might be as simple as the determination of the world’s beauty. Who planted these flowers, I don’t know. But every spring I’m grateful for that gardener who lived here and who so loved these spring gems.

The first of a year’s abundance of dandelions

in this single kernel of bright yellow

dropped on our path by the sun, sensing

that we might need some marker to help us

find our way through life…

— Ted Kooser, “Dandelion”

Mundane Moment

On a sunny spring Friday afternoon, I’m outside a St. Johnsbury car dealership, waiting for a recalled part to be replaced on my car.

A warm breeze blows up and drifts dust over my keyboard.

90 minutes later, I’m finished, and stop in the downtown. The doors of all the businesses are open. I wander into the bookstore, lift a book, and read — a casual gesture in a public space that I may not have done for a year, or more.

I open a book of poetry randomly and read:


You may have to break
your heart, but it isn’t nothing
to know even one moment alive. The sound
of an oar in an oarlock or a ruminant
animal tearing grass. The smell of grated ginger.
The ruby neon of the liquor store sign

Ellen Bass

I have the strangest rush through my body, a tingling all the way down to my fingers.

On my way home, I stop in at a store and buy mayonnaise and two avocados at my daughter’s request. I walk out holding these things, blinking in the hot sunlight.

In the parking lot, a woman driving a pickup rolls down her window and remarks about the lovely weather, saying how happy she will be to get home. I nod, and we talk for a moment.

When she’s left, I stand with those things in my hands, on this ordinary afternoon, doing this ordinary errand. Someday, not too far off, this daughter will be out sourcing her own mayonnaise.

Our quarantine with Covid has likely turned my hair irretrievably to gray. So be it. Our lives were never meant to stay burnished and unblemished. I stand there, suddenly amazed at my good fortune, and then I head home for BLTs.

Photo by Gabriela S./Barr Hill, Greensboro, VT

Strangers’ Laughter

I step out of our house just after sunset, and a crescent moon hangs over the road — a silent slice of gleaming beauty in a dark blue sky. By then, I’ve been on a school board call for hours, and I’ve had to remind myself repeatedly that what appears to be illusion at times — this strange, Hollywood-squares conversation — will shake out in ways that affect people’s lives directly: adults’ livelihoods, kids’ educations.

Although it’s five on a Friday, there’s not much traffic in town. In the little neighborhoods where I walk, no one is out. Against one maple tree, I see two plastic red sleds propped against the trunk.

As I round a corner, I hear laughter. I pause for a moment in the twilight, listening. A row of adults is bundled in coats and hats, sitting on a porch, talking and laughing. The cold air is wet with tomorrow’s approaching snow.

I’m no stranger to Vermont’s long winters, but mid-January 2021, and such a deep loneliness has set in — not just in my house, not just in my town, but spread ubiquitously. I stand under that gleaming sliver of moon, listening to the laughter of strangers. For the moment, I’m utterly stunned by the unexpected bliss of the moment, the sheer luck I have to be standing here, part of this shifting world.

“I don’t like ironing, but it reminds me that once, long, long ago, there was a semblance of order in the world.”