Wildflowers.

Last summer, my neighbors put a Black Lives Matter sign in their front yard. The sign was stolen. They purchased another. The second sign was stolen. The patten repeated. Our neighbors brought the sign in at night. They placed the sign between our two houses. They kept at it.

Earlier this summer, I noticed a sign had appeared on their lawn again, above a tarp spread out near the sidewalk. I didn’t note much of that. It’s a way I don’t usually walk in the non-snowy months. I nearly always cut through the cemetery or take a different side street.

But last night, walking home in a faint rain, I saw they had planted a row of wildflowers where that tarp had been. The flowers are about knee-high, festooned with delicate blooms. Their sign remains.

Hardwick, Vermont

Dumpling Quest.

I stop into the Friday Hardwick Farmers Market to buy dumplings for my daughters. Waiting in line, I chat with an acquaintance from a nearby town who tells me his wife’s sister unexpectedly passed away in spring, and left a house full of things and no children to clean out the house. I’ve known this man and his wife for years. They’re amicable and pleasant, with a far more relaxed view towards the world than my own, seriously Type A, ‘get a plan’ attitude.’ I find them incredibly pleasant and refreshing.

He buys chicken curry and mentions to me that if I ever hear of free vinyl records, he’d be interested.

A chilly wind blows across the market field, and the vendor grabs his paper boxes. ‘Feels like September,’ he says. ‘Summer’s disappearing, and I haven’t even enjoyed it yet.’

I hand him ten dollar bill and step out into the sunlight. In the pavilion, a young woman sings while another fiddles. For a moment, time splinters, and I’m back at the Stowe Farmers Market where I sold our maple syrup for over a decade. For many of those years, I had a baby or small child on my back. Cloud shadows skitter over the field, and the wind blows dust into my eyes.

The dumpling man says, ‘Take more sauce,’ and I do.

I know what coming back to America from a war zone is like because I’ve done it so many times. First there is a kind of shock at the level of comfort and affluence that we enjoy, but that is followed by the dismal realization that we live in a society that is basically at war with itself. People speak with incredible contempt about – depending on their views – the rich, the poor, the educated, the foreign-born, the president, or the entire US government… People who speak with contempt for one another will probably not remain united for long.” 

— Sebastian Junger

Our World.

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.

Moon.

On her way out last night, my daughter calls back into the house, Come see the moon!

A full moon rises behind our barn — the July Buck Moon. The night is so luminescent I can easily see the lilies along the barn.

I suppose the moon reflects the faraway sun, but the moonlight glows so vibrantly, like living molten gold, that the moon this night seems particularly alive, so close I imagine reaching out and dipping my hands into the round bucket of its beauty.

I know, theoretically, our house on this planet is spinning, too, but from our patch of grass and stone walkway and garden and house, it appears the lovely moon will rise and sail over our house and us sleeping in our bedrooms all night along. A magical thought — one I take comfort from.

“And The Moon and the Stars and the World”

Long walks at night– 
that’s what good for the soul: 
peeking into windows 
watching tired housewives

— Charles Bukowski

Burton Island, Vermont

Family.

My friend and I spent many hours drinking coffee and watching our (then) little kids play at the edge of Caspian Lake, on colder summer days moving our coffee to the front seat of the car while my daughter’s hair blew over her eyes and lips in the wind. Those little kids are all grown up now, busily figuring out their own lives.

This Saturday, while we’re swimming, my daughters have dressed in heels and dresses and gone to a wedding. Late that night, after a long drive, they return with stories not about the dress or the Inn or the cake, but with stories of people and families and whose lives have gone awry and who is kind. An aunt and uncle of the bride have traded in family participation for a cult. Another family member is wandering out west, immersed in her own story, having cut herself free from any family obligation.

In the midst of this are the young adults, all working hard, scrambling in the severe shortage of housing in Vermont, trading advice about colleges and education. Brushing our teeth, we laugh and laugh. My daughters are no longer young in the way of using sand toys at the beach, but very young at heart, ready to make the world new in their own lives and hearts.

Family, we agree, using this word as both a noun and a verb.

Midsummer. Rain. Snails in the cabbage. Blooming calendula. I wouldn’t trade these obligations for the world.

“I am so far from being a pessimist…on the contrary, in spite of my scars, I am tickled to death at life.” 

― Eugene O’Neill

Cash. Wood. Still Lovely July.

In my bank account appears $250 from the IRS. I could spend this money six ways to Sunday. What I do is order more firewood. For years, the only expenses we had for firewood were chainsaws and fuel, property taxes, and the our own labor.

Living in town now, I buy firewood. There’s nothing else like the wet-sap scent of freshly cut and split wood. I buy from a man who lives in the next town over. When he delivers, we have an annual check-in about what’s happening, standing beside a great pile of split wood, talking about the weather or what’s happening in Washington or sweeter things, like his baby granddaughter.

The thing about burning wood is all the steps — tree, woodpile, glowing fire and happiness, ash that I spread in my garden.

Last night, as I turned off the lights and headed upstairs, I spied one of our cats lying on the rug before the wood stove, wistfully staring. It’s sultry July, and many days off (I hope) from kneeling before the wood stove.

Hardwick, Vermont