My book is headed to galley printing on Wednesday; hence, the last minute flurry of rereading and tweaking — is this quite right? Can I hone this better? This chapter, here in its entirety, is Fern one Christmas morning, about as far from this day as possible. Tonight, so near the solstice, the windows are wide open, a breeze tossing in the maple leaves, the chittering robins presumably sleeping. There’s an awful lot of snow in this novel. I mean, an awful lot. A Vermont book. Tomorrow, back to my garden.
Late in the night, I woke.
I lifted my sobbing child from her crib and pressed her against my shoulder, humming a tuneless wordless ditty. Her body shook fiercely with distress. Hal’s feet clumped down the stairs. A light glowed from the living room below, and, caressing my daughter’s silky head, I thought of the heat from the woodstove whooshing up the staircase, fleeing into the frozen night through the ceiling of this plank-built uninsulated second floor. Through the window, stars hung in the nightsky, forever distant.
The little girl calmed, wrapped in a blanket and my arms. Her shuttering, gasping breath gradually quieted into sleep. Then I heard a sound I thought at first was an orchestra broadcast from outdoor speakers, as if a DJ had arrived: a trumpeting I mistook on this Christmas morning for Handel’s religious music. Then I thought perhaps it was the ancient sea, dolphins or whales, their voices raised in holy harmony. None of this was so: coyotes howled down the hill, somewhere near the sugarhouse. In the great ocean of night, I couldn’t see them, but I sensed their muzzles were raised to the cold sky, howling in long chimes, one into another and another, and another. With only the little bit of light trickling up the stairs and the stars icy bits, my slumbering child growing heavy in my tired arms, I leaned our weight back on my heels, entranced by the loveliness of this Christmas morning wild serenade. And like that, the coyotes ceased, and the farmhouse was mute again.