We’ve had so little snow this winter in Vermont that this morning’s deep snowfall comes almost as a kind of surprise. The day before, a cold rain fell all morning. As I bent into work, I kept glancing through the windows, glad of the indoor work that morning.

This snow is the classic, pillowy powder of the most magical childhood memories. Sure, spring is far in the offing on a day like this, but the billows and mounds embody winter’s profound silent beauty.

A decade ago in my life, this kind of storm would have whooshed in with a number of worries — will the sugarhouse collapse before the roof is raked? How long can I endure cooped-upness with small children? Will our firewood hold out? These days, my worries are different, as my life is in another place. But I’ve changed, too. We’ll do what needs to be done. What doesn’t get done, perhaps doesn’t need to be done. And some sun is in the forecast for this weekend, too.

[The 1800s opium epidemic in China] was once widely interpreted as a story of a once noble society destroyed by a powerful drug, but more recent scholarship has argued that this simplistic explanation overlooks the turmoil, poverty, and widespread dislocation caused by the wars themselves which in turn exacerbated the epidemic.

Carl Erick Fisher, The Urge

Late Autumn. Tamarack Gold. Rain.

Here’s where we are in the world of tender gold tamarack needles and cold mud.

For two nights, I got up and read Andrea Elliott’s Invisible Child, unable to leave that world, needing to know how Elliott ended her book. I won’t reveal that. But here’s a few lines worth an extra mention:

“The world ‘understand’ comes from Old English — understandan. Literally, it means ‘to stand in the midst of.’ It does not mean we have reached some ultimate truth. It means, to my mind, that we have experienced enough of something new, something formerly unseen, to be provoked, humbled, awakened, or even changed by it.”

These words ring true for me in my own writing and, I’ll add, my experience of parenting. Elliott goes on to write, “Almost nothing counts more than the person who shows up.”

Here’s hoping you’re all weathering the weather wherever you are.

Sing, Robins

I lingered on our porch yesterday evening, gathering a few pieces of firewood. It’s warm enough now that the fire could stay out, but somehow letting the hearth go cold in March just doesn’t seem right.

There’s that worn-out cliche that the laughter of babies is one of the best sounds on this planet — and it’s not a cliche, because baby laughter is really dear.

But so is the songs of robins.

We’re back again in these melodies. Around us, mud and thaw pushing up the debris that’s hidden under the snow all winter. Pieces of cardboard and empty yogurt containers, the runny mess of my ash pile, my youngest’s holey (or is that holy) pink socks where she tossed them over the porch railings in a burst of spring enthusiasm.

Oh, robins, mud your nests, lay your eggs, raise your newborns. We need you!

Open a window. Rain falling
on good land is good for melancholy.

Jody Gladding

Hardwick, Vermont


Driving home from work, I see my daughter and her friend walking through town, talking. I pull over, and they run across the road. We stand there for a little while, talking. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about this at all. They tell me a little about kicking around a soccer ball that morning, and remark how hot the day has suddenly become.

They finish their walk, then we all go swimming.

These days, I sometimes think of my grandparents, whose lives were marked by the depression. As a kid, when we went out to eat with my grandmother, she’d swipe ketchup packets, because, she said, you never knew when you might need it.

For these teens, the pandemic will mark their lives, too. Someday, I imagine, they’ll be saying, remember when high school stopped, and we all stayed home?

They won’t forget. Sleepovers and cozy breakfast in the kitchen are on permanent hiatus, but summer is back. Sitting on the bank, watching them swim, I’m happy for just for this moment — sunlight and pollen-flecked water, croaking bullfrogs in the weeds, laughter — a little more childhood yet to come.

Many people find it easy to imagine unseen webs of malevolent conspiracy in the world, and they are not always wrong. But there is also an innocence that conspires to hold humanity together…

Tracy Kidder


Photo by Gabriela Stanciu

Day by Day

In library land — as if the masks aren’t enough — I keep reminding myself that the world isn’t the same. I’m not supposed to say, hey, kick off your shoes and relax. Lie down and read if you want.

In my library, an older woman comes in wearing a mask, looking for a locally written book that apparently no one can find. Maybe she has a copy. Maybe someone else in town has a copy. Do I? I don’t, but I manage to find one copy in a library in southern Vermont. That library, of course, appears to be closed.

A young couple arrives next, excited to print out a copy of their nursery license.

The afternoon passes in fits and starts. While I tackle the backlog of details, I listen to The Daily podcast about George Floyd’s funeral. A friend wanders in and leans against my desk, listening, too. By the end, we’re both weeping. I close my laptop and ask how her life is going. What’s happening? We stand apart, talking.

Shortly before I lock up for the night and head home, a woman and her daughter appear. The daughter shyly tells me, I’m in second grade now.

Goodness! I say.

She’s lost a front tooth.

We move outside, into the breeze and sunlight. I listen to her mother who’s working and in school. While I marvel at how she’s kept what appears to me an impossible life tougher, I keep looking at her little girl, holding a stack of library books. Step by step, I think.

I’ve seen enough things to know that if you just keep on going, if you turn the corner, the sun will be shining.

— Rev. Al Sharpton


Childhood, End of Year 14

Three months of glorious summer stretch ahead — we may be (mostly) shut in, threatened by a virus, wondering about the fall and the future — but the apple and lilac blossoms are profuse.

Early mornings and dusky evenings, I water barefoot in the garden, carrying buckets silently, listening. My daughter waits for a game of soccer. When I lean against her trampoline and ask what’s up, she says merely, Nothing.

There’s no arguing here. That nothing encompasses a great deal these days, including the studious picking apart of dandelion heads.