Little & Big Worlds

On an incredibly warm afternoon, a little girl discovers a pencil-thin garter snake curled up in the gravel alongside the library. Snow lies ubiquitous on the playground, but the earth there has emerged from its winter hibernation: a green iris shoot, dark mud. I love snakes, the girl says dreamily.

VPR carries news of the stock market’s plunge, of quarantine, of illness. All these factors, in one way or another, may eventually — later? sooner? — reach this little girl. For now, she stands in the snow in her boots and a t-shirt, staring at the creature. Under her arm is tucked a grownup natural history guide, a book she’s checked out of the library.

Later, after a nearly six-hour-long school board meeting filled with simply stuff, we lean back in chairs. It’s nearly midnight. There’s still snacks on the table. I’ve long finished my tea. Head home? I put my forehead on the school library’s table, its wood hard beneath my bone. Eventually, I gather my papers. Outside, the air is balmy. I breathe.

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March: Rejuvenation

We wake to a morning of deep cold and sun-sparkling fresh snow.

Illness has moved through my daughter; her eyes are merry again as she laughs with her sister. March 1: we’re ready to greet the remainder of the winter, the coming weeks of snow and cold that inevitably will end in mud.

These small and temporary illnesses have their place, too, pulling us inside and quieter. In a fever, I dream of a book I’m reading, how memory lies deep within our bodies. As if in a strange journey, the fever draws me into the mysteries of flesh and blood, of synapsis and neuron, and I’m a little child again, holding a paper doll. The slick paper is tangible beneath my fingertips.

The dream ends, and I’m here again, mother to two daughters who are laughing as they do math homework together.

The linear view of time may be an illusion, but it’s one I’m happy to join again, finished with illness and fever, ready for March, green, spring.

When the winter chrysanthemums go,
There’s nothing to write about
But radishes.

— Basho

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Photo by Molly S./Hardwick, Vermont

Dribbles of Spring

Light returns in a rush in these clear sunny days, where the sun has warmth but the shadows are frigid. My daughter abandons her coat.

The days, once so slow with toddlers, spin along, dawn to evening to the night’s constellations, as if the final years of my youngest’s childhood have accelerated. Living on the edge of this small Vermont valley, the sky stretches out as much as it ever does in Vermont, unlike the endless horizons of the west. Come summer, this world will be dense with leaves and gardens, but for now, we’re living in layers of snow and sky, beginning that push-pull of warmth-cold heading toward spring.

What was difficult
was the travel, which,
on arrival, is forgotten.

Louise Glück
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Kid Tracks

Tuesday, I’m at the Vermont Department of Libraries for an all-day workshop in the enormous, former high school — the loveliest of buildings in Barre. Built on a hill with a view of the town, every time I walk through the doors I wonder when we thought it was wiser to educate kids in ugly brick and nearly-windowless buildings instead of spacious and high-ceilinged rooms, with a sweeping staircase and polished woodwork.

How the world changes. The building is largely quiet now.

Midday, I walk on slushy sidewalks around a nearby park, a perfect square fronted by enormous ornate Victorian houses. On a snowbank, I see where a child’s mittened hand pressed ripples into the fresh white. The waves are low, and so I imagine a small child walking along in a snowsuit, thinking of not much at all but the pleasure of pressing fingertips into snow. The bank ends, and there’s no more sign of the child.

Here’s one more poem from Buhner’s book…..

People possess four things
that are no good at sea:
rudder, anchor, oars
and the fear of going down.

— Machado

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Photo by Gabriela. Hazen trails, Hardwick.

Ode to Winter

Cleaning off my car windshield this morning, I had the impulse to remove my mitten and bury my hand in the fluffy, utterly white stuff. At zero degrees, with a stiff wind cutting my face, I didn’t.

Snow has finally really come to Vermont — and kept coming and coming. Winter’s a hassle — always — in the realm of driving, of keeping the house heated, the windows closed, of missing walking barefoot through the garden and woods.

But winter’s simply ineffably beautiful, too. Driving to work, a scarf wrapped around my neck, my heavy boots in the car, too, just in case I break down, I’m mesmerized beyond VPR’s impeachment news as I watch swirls of snow skitter over the pavement. Since I was a little girl and my parents drove me, I’ve watched snow and wind work their silent mystery over the highway. Winter.

Calligraphy of geese
against the sky-
the moon seals it.

— Buson

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Calais, Vermont

First Sledding

In the dusk, children screamed as they sledded down a hill — so screechingly at first I worried they were injured. When I stepped around the garage, though, two children in  raggedy snowsuits were laughing at the foot of a very short hill. The kids ran up, holding orange sleds.

I know I posted this last fall — but, again, here’s one of my favorite poems.

Although there is the road,
The child walks
In the snow.

— Murakami Kijo

And here’s my big kid, taking a holiday photo and begging me to please, try to smile!

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