Last night, I attended a Development Review Board meeting where only I appeared in person. The other participants all dialed in via their laptops. When we finished, I closed the windows and then walked out, standing for a moment on the steps of the two-story building that had originally been built as the town’s high school. The door in the empty building had been open when I appeared. I closed it behind me.
It’s a strange way to hold a meeting. One small bit of strangeness in a year and a half now of utter weirdness.
Driving home, the air is otherworldly with smoke from fires on the other side of the continent. My daughter and I stand in the garden, and she wonders what the air smells like — it’s not the familiar scent of smoke from our chimney, or the neighbor’s stove. Nor is it pestilent, like a house burning down.
I weed a little while she tells me about her day. Dusk moves in. In the sweet, warm evening, we swim.
My daughter and her friend were been hired for the afternoon to harvest pumpkins.
That afternoon, picking up the girls at the farm, I stood talking for awhile with the couple, whom I’ve known since my oldest daughter was a toddler. They showed me the sunflowers they had managed to save from the frost by covering. The flowers, I could see, were not long for living.
Bundled in sweaters and sweatshirts, we stood talking in the late afternoon sunlight. The couple was appreciative of my daughter and her friend — how the girls’ hard work boosted the boys’ output. I laughed, watching the girls walk towards me, out of the field, holding gloves in their hands, talking with each other.
I remembered those long-ago summer and fall days, when I had worn this child on my back while I sold maple syrup and homemade ice cream. Her little fingers reached over my shoulder, looking for snacks.
The couple’s son drove up on a tractor, a father now himself. As I drove back to our warm house, baking lasagne and apple crisp, I kept thinking of how that couple would give my youngest a tiny pumpkin every year at the farmers’ market. She would carry that orange squash in her two hands, like treasure.
When I was really little — probably three or so — I vaguely remember my family parked outside of town, watching the Fourth of July fireworks. My mother said the sprawl of lights in the darkness was Santa Fe. That’s how little I was — I didn’t even realize that magic was city lights. We lived on a dirt road then, out of town, and my guess is I hadn’t seen much of those bright city lights.
Oddly enough, I remembered that as I was taking out the compost the other night, just around 5 o’clock. The sun had sunk, leaving not even a smear of pale pink.
In the darkness, later, the dishes washed, my daughter and I walked around town, our jackets unzipped.
Nothing ever begins when you think it does. You think you can trace something back to its roots but roots by definition never end. There’s always something that came before: soil and water and seeds that were born of trees that were born of yet more seeds.
― The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion
When I returned from a school board meeting last night, so tired I might actually have been sleepwalking, the kids had taken the trusty yardstick, swept out the toy mice from under the couch, and the cats were ecstatic. Our house was reveling in utter joy.
I write this, because I admire those cats so much, epitomizing the be here now bliss of existence. But, bless them, these are cats.
After Vicki wrote in about the fires in Australia, my older daughter and I kept reading and reading about these fires. Our globe is literally in flames. Like just about everyone else on the planet, I’m lacking an answer, a real solution. I know just how privileged I am to live in what often seems like the Shire of Vermont, this particularly sweet spot.
When I was a young woman in the 1980s and 90s, the sentiment I was given was pretty much an all for yourself one. But for my kids, that’s not even an option. I didn’t think adults were particularly bright when I was young, but they were just adults, neither more nor less. Now, listening to my daughters and their friends, I know they’re thinking what a mess you’ve left us.
If only there was a yardstick solution to this…
Maybe learning how to be out in the big world isn’t the epic journey everyone thinks it is. Maybe that’s actually the easy part. The hard part is what’s right in front of you. The hard part is learning how to hold the title to your very existence, to own not only property, but also your life.
On this spongy, springy April day, may Fortuna smile a little more warmly on northern Vermont…..
With good reason, the ancients revered the fearsome goddess Fortuna, out of a sense that the sovereign powers of this world were ultimately capricious.
— Kyle Harper, The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire
Rain moved in overnight, but yesterday was a sultry 80 degrees, the school kids running into the library and standing just inside the door, panting, their faces rosy, sweaty. A grandfather and I stood talking in the doorway. About an hour more, you think, this lovely weather will last? I asked. He laughed.
After work, I swam while my daughter sat on the bank with our friend and her old rabbit, stroking the bunny’s white fur and talking. The pond water — when I thought swimming had ended weeks ago — had an initial flash of cold. Then I swam out where the deep, nearly inky water held me, tepid. The dragonflies are gone. I grabbed fallen, floating leaves.
I knew the sun would set before long. I had chores. My friend was leaving. And yet — swimming, October 10, northern Vermont. Mark that.