Cash. Wood. Still Lovely July.

In my bank account appears $250 from the IRS. I could spend this money six ways to Sunday. What I do is order more firewood. For years, the only expenses we had for firewood were chainsaws and fuel, property taxes, and the our own labor.

Living in town now, I buy firewood. There’s nothing else like the wet-sap scent of freshly cut and split wood. I buy from a man who lives in the next town over. When he delivers, we have an annual check-in about what’s happening, standing beside a great pile of split wood, talking about the weather or what’s happening in Washington or sweeter things, like his baby granddaughter.

The thing about burning wood is all the steps — tree, woodpile, glowing fire and happiness, ash that I spread in my garden.

Last night, as I turned off the lights and headed upstairs, I spied one of our cats lying on the rug before the wood stove, wistfully staring. It’s sultry July, and many days off (I hope) from kneeling before the wood stove.

Hardwick, Vermont

Rich

Snow drifts down this morning, officially or not marking the beginning of winter. As always, the cats and I are the first awake in our house, the cats hungry for a bowl of food and then sprawling on the rug, satisfied, happy with the prospect of another day.

The first snowfall perhaps belongs in the realm of childhood, the magical enchantment of waking and realizing the overnight world has silently transformed into white. No one in our house is in the Land of Little any longer, joyous at the prospect of a zillionth reading of The Snowy Day.

Nonetheless — and despite the months ahead of Vermont snow — these moments of gust and flake and the wind chimes singing, the daughters sleeping, the cats purring, are, for the moment, sweet and silent.

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural….

Louis MacNeice

Warmth

When I return home from work in the evening, one cat is stretched on the rug before the wood stove, the other lies on the coffee table, front paws draped over the table’s edge. It’s a scene of utter cat joy.

My daughters are laughing on the couch about something foreign to me — some kind of iPhone. I pull over a chair and sit down with a bowl of potatoes and vegetables and meat.

While they share a story about their negotiations over dinner dishes and compost and wood chores, I soak in the warmth of our living room.

All around us rages the virus, a rising irritability, utter uncertainty over the future. For years, I’ve relied on my ability to figure out a plan. Listening to my girls, I decide this is the heart of my plan: be like the cats. Drink in where we are now. Let that nourish us. And, for God’s sake, laugh at the jokes the kids tell.

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” 

— James Baldwin

Rain for Dinner

In a steady rain, my daughter sets the table for dinner. For months, we’ve eaten on our deck. I suggest, as I’m sautéing onions, that she set the dining room table.

Giggling, she lays plates on the glass table outside, sets out forks, and then digs in the drawer for napkins.

Really? I say, napkins? They’ll get wet.

I don’t mind eating outside by myself, she answers, still giggling.

This has been a long day, a long however many weeks that have widened into months of coronavirus, that will likely be a long year or years. We’d planned to be in Maine these days, soaking up sunlight and the sand, but quarantining upon return isn’t feasible. She knows this; she doesn’t argue.

Still laughing, she takes a jar of pickles and sets it on the table. From inside, I see raindrops bounce off its unopened top. When she comes back, I say, Don’t forget cups. I’m eating outside with you, too.

All who have achieved excellence in art possess one thing in common; that is, a mind to be one with nature, throughout the seasons.

Matsuo Bashō

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My daughter’s companion

A Little Less Domesticity

I was reading last night when my daughter opened my door and asked what’s happening. Through the opened windows, a fox was screaming — a chilling sound — as if a child was in distress. The fox wandered in the woods and ravine behind our house, coming and going, calling.

Eventually, I turned off my light and lay in the darkness. Our cat sat on the windowsill, pressed up against the screen, listening to the wild world. What a relief — simply the natural world, hungering.

The power of dissent is a rich part of who we are.

— Sameer Pandya, Members Only

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Closing February

We wake to rain, the sound more reminiscent of March than April in Vermont, but not unheard of. So it begins: this back and forth marching to spring, freeze, thaw: put that on repeat.

My little cat sits at the glass door in the kitchen, staring out at the rain, dreaming of chickadees and grackles.

Likewise, my daughter gets a little better from her illness each day, the fever emptying from her. So it goes in this winter: this season when I’ve felt surrounded by so much unhappy news. Sad deaths, lost jobs, injuries. Against this, a fever looms almost welcome, as if a lesser, harmless inoculation.

Spring’s a distance away: there’s no arguing with that. But the season change looms inevitably now. Outside my library door, deep in the pebbles against the southern wall, the first green shoots press upward, tentative, persistent, resilient.

 

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