Ordinary Mystery.

The moon shines brilliantly tonight as I walk down the street to the co-op for cheese and cauliflower. Lady Moon: round as a dime and luminescent like no earthly thing.

In the best of times, January can rage like a shrieking stranger, a visitor who’s arrived with too many needs.

This year, time has slowed to incomprehensible. We wake; we do our things. Work and email. I paint a room. I endeavor to write another book. I keep Unstitched moving along.

The ordinary happens: snow falls. All day and into the night. When I wake in the morning, there’s inches and inches of fresh, sparkling snow. It’s not a blizzard, not feet upon feet. I have little trouble finding my Subaru in the morning. But the snow sugars our world for this day in utter beauty.

The rest of everything is still there — the pandemic, the crumbling American Empire, the chaos of human relationships in my house and all around — but walking home, the cold is so sharp that the snow squeaks beneath my boots. For a moment, I’m a child again, mystified that fluffy snow can yield a squeak. But there you go. A mystery incarnate.

Here’s an interesting essay emailed in by a reader about growing saffron in Vermont — yes, saffron & Vermont.

Tasting Snow.

Where we are now….

In fresh snow, I walk through the little neighborhoods around us. One man shovels snow. A few plow trucks hurry through. It’s nearing dinner, and streetlights are turning on, one by one, in the December twilight.

It’s been a week of phone calls and problems with no clear solutions, simply the inevitable change that comes to all our earthly doings. I’ve wandered on this walk without real intention, drifting away from chopping firewood and shoveling paths.

I turn a corner and see a house where I once bought sugaring equipment from a man who lived there. He’s passed on, and his wife sold the house and moved away. A family lives there now. Two little boys call at each other in the street. There’s no traffic about, and they’re standing beneath the streetlight. As I walk closer, I see their heads are back, and they’re catching falling snowflakes in their open mouths. Their voices are loud and excited about this small thing.

A man comes out and says, Get in the car. They get in the backseat of an idling car, and he drives away. Back at my house, my daughters have brought in the night’s firewood and swept the floor.

And because bell hooks was so amazing, another line from her:

For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?

Trees. Answers.

Hardwick, Vermont

I wrench my upper arm furiously chopping wood on this wet afternoon. It’s forty degrees and raining. December, and we’re in that nether time between Thanksgiving and that next round of holidays. There are times when I wonder what day it is; we’re in this gray zone where days unfurl as a stream of gray. The nights are overcast, and January’s brilliant stars and cold seems far away.

The news is all bad. There’s really no sugarcoating the chaos. In the meantime, we make do. I pull on my boots and raincoat and head into the woods. Rain falls from pine needles.

Log by log, I keep our hearth warm. The cats do their house cat thing, purring, darling. I’ve lived in Vermont most of my adult life, and I’ve had the love-hate relationship with winter that’s so common. So much of winter is introspection, opening an aperture to ask what things mean in this quiet space. This year…. this year bears plenty of questions. Hence, the slog through the few inches of wet snow to stare up at the dripping trees.

Fox in the Night.

My daughter brings home a booster shot and sticks my arm. That night, I wake with dreams of email and work, of words that move through my mind, and then all of that passes. The cats and I lie before the wood stove, watching the flicking red embers through the glass. After each of my children’s births, I felt as though I had reached through a channel and touched the other world, that realm where I originated and where someday again I’ll return. A friend’s brother passes from Covid. She tells me, God must have a plan, but I don’t know what it is. For a moment, I think wicked thoughts about Catholicism, but that passes, too. Who am I to judge her faith, what will carry her and her family through hard days? In these December days of scant light and long nights, my daughter comes into my room and opens my window, waking me. A fox screams. We kneel at the window, gazing at the snow on the giant mock orange beside our house. The fox shrieks again. We listen, hard. In my mind, I begin imaging a message here — the two of us, the cold air, the moonless night, wild creature. Then I quit and simply listen.

Wild. Domestic.

My daughter’s out of school early today and headed out to ski. I caution her, Watch the roads, be careful of ice, mindful of blowing snow, and look out for creeps. She hurries out; she has stuff to do.

Meanwhile, my head’s full of all kinds of things, work meetings and a piece I’m writing and am I going to change that busted headlight bulb.

December, and we’re in a pause again, the pandemic ranging around. Schools are open. ICUs overwhelmed. We get boosters. Lost masks are caught in the branches of trees. My sweet cat grooms in a puddle of sunlight, utterly pleased with his work. I pet his head, thinking of my daughter with her sister’s borrowed coat, heading on her own up into the snowy and windy mountains, her eyes gleaming with joy. I keep typing.

I learned one thing: the world is simultaneously collapsing everywhere. The only difference is that in Tvayan [in Russia], they live knowingly amid the wreckage.”

— Nastassja Martin, In the Eye of the Wild

Distance.

We’re deep in the season of darkness now, night so thick at 5PM I could hide my hands in it. At work this morning, my daughter texts me news of a murder-suicide in a nearby town. The deaths occurred this morning while my youngest and I were eating granola and yogurt, talking idly about Monday morning.

I’ve lived in Vermont darn near forever, and this marks the fifth murder in a handful of weeks. While my daughter and I cook dinner we talk about violence in Vermont — domestic, and not. There’s nothing I can say to change any of this. But I tell my daughter she’s part of the world, now frequently without me or her older sister. In my own mother speak, I remind her that she has her own part in the world, too.

Pay attention, I urge.

In the dark, I chop wood beneath the stars.