After work, while my daughter memorizes French for an exam, I head out for a walk. A slight snow is falling, just a few lazy flakes as if nothing much is going to happen, just that little bit of snow. It’s my most very favorite snow, just lovely, and in the cone of streetlight I have that enchanting Narnia feeling — as if it’s just me and the lamppost and that snow, and maybe the mysterious White Witch might silently appear. In that twirling-down-slowly snow, Turkish delight might still be an untasted promise in my life, rather than the too-sweet candy I remember.
That’s it, from my end of the world. I’ve been “dividing my time” between desk and couch, finishing up a manuscript. When I submit it Friday, I’m planning to ski out the back door — snow willing — and paint my daughter’s room.
Then, on to the next month.
But land is land, and it’s safer than the stocks and bonds of Wall Street swindlers.
― Long Day’s Journey into Night
Saturday morning, the snow is above my knees on the long path from the parking lot to the library. Halfway up the door, the snow has blown off the school’s soccer field, and I tug the door open. Snow and I tumble in.
A patron shows up while I’m shoveling, his glasses fogged with snow. He’s walking in my footsteps, and he’s laughing. Why do we live in Vermont?
After dinner, my oldest daughter asks her sister and I to go on a walk with her. Cold but not that cold, we walk against the landscape of sunset.
No one else save a few pickups pass us. A flock of geese flies inexplicably south. This whole long walk I remember exactly why I live in Vermont. We return after 7:30 and it’s not yet full dark.
Vermont Public Radio is filled with cheery news. Worst Super Bowl. Lousiest State of the Union Address.
More locally, the Honda buried at the neighbors has fully emerged. Where the headlights should be are two gaping holes, the lights themselves on top of the car.
My 20-year-old sets her gas cap on top of her car and drives off in a rush. When she discovers this, I send her to the auto parts store, where she suspects the guys behind the counter are laughing at her. Why not? I ask. I laughed at you. Give me a little mirth, girl. She laughs, too, delighted the cap is nine dollars. What a deal I got, she says.
I resist pointing out that a better deal would have been not losing it. I’ve gotten a nine-dollar laugh out of this one.
It’s February. This is the time of year when things get worse in Vermont, but also better. I’ve lived here a long time, and generally I like living in Vermont. I actually like it very much, despite the things in Vermont that aren’t cool but are hardly endemic to Vermont—isolation and intergenerational poverty and the increasing bent in American life to see the world in narrowed vision.
This is the time of year when cabin fever begins to creep in with a kind of communal silliness. We are all together in this. Even folks who foray out to Florida or California, winter is long, and then longer, and then even longer.
February marks the time of both weeping and giggling. The light floods back, more every day, crazy-making. Spring may be far off, but the scent is in the air.
Somehow, we’ve reached the middle of February: this is the period of deep winter, and its many juxtapositions. The sun shines blissfully all morning on the sleeping cats sprawled around my feet on the kitchen floor. The neighbors’ septic backs up; we meet in our nearby driveways, shoveling snow yet again, and he laughs, Not my best day.
The older daughter takes a highlighter to her textbook, determined to pass an EMT course, while the younger plans an elaborate visit to Burlington. Through my perpetual email, I wonder if she’s imagining Burlington as the spring paradise of blooming fruit trees rather than the gray pavement I see once a week.
My taxes are unfinished in messy pile beside stacks of overdue books from three libraries. I mean to invite over parents of my daughter’s new friend. I miss drinking coffee with my friend in Montpelier. In the basement of either the town hall or the town clerk might be boxes of legos for my young library patrons: a kid gold mine I need to spelunk. Somewhere out there is my next husband. When will he arrive?
This is February.
March will bring my library’s pie breakfast, when hundreds of people in town bake pies and carry them in both hands to the elementary school’s second floor cafeteria. Two live bands, endless conversation and gossip, coffee and more coffee, sweet and savory pies, and hundreds of Vermonters in snow boots. Pie breakfast is March’s small town brilliance.
The moon has nothing to be sad about….
— Sylvia Path, from “Edge”