A Little Green.

An acquaintance stops into work. I’m jammed to the point of frazzled with a list of what needs to be done, but I quit for a bit and shoot the breeze, ask what’s up in his world, and how his very large (by Vermont standards) business is faring.

We’re Vermonters, so our conversation naturally bends towards the weather. We’re dry — not New Mexico dry, where my parents live — but so dry in Vermont wells are going dry. Listening, I think how much of the summer is yet to come. Then he heads off to his day, and I head back into mine.

In the evening, I’m in a meeting at the town offices when the rain begins. The town offices are in a 100-year-old schoolhouse. It’s a well-made building of wood and walls of pressed-tin over, now shabby in places and in need of TLC, but endearing with history and craft. By then, the day has stretched out quite long for me, but I’m happy to be in this building, with jovial people who are doing their community part.

When I step outside in the dark, cold has moved in with the rain. But the rain falls steadily, at least for some amount of time. The next morning, the hillsides are vibrant green in a way I haven’t seen for some time.

We’re dry, but not as dry as we were before.

Lighting the Way

On our evening walk in the dark, we pass by a house where a couch, a love seat, and an ottoman have been sitting in the front yard for nearly two months now. Last night, in the rain, passing by the FREE sign that had fallen on the wet ground, I wondered, What’s the plan here?

These evenings, I often stop by the neighboring house. That small house on Winter Street was built for granite workers around 1900, like the house I bought instead. The Winter Street house was dirty and unkempt, the kitchen not really a kitchen; no one seemed to have cooked in that room for a very long time. The woman who bought that house fixed it up, room by room, but now that house appears to be empty again; I’m hoping she’s found true love and moved elsewhere.

From her free pile, I’ve taken little things — a patterned bowl, a small plate with a fish.

Post-Thanksgiving, I walk with my youngest, who imagines a post-Covid world when she’s ready for college and then wonders about her few high school years remaining. What will that look like?

She knows the future is utterly unknown. Post-holiday, we’re in watch-and-wait, partly to see how the virus surges or not, and partly to see how, collectively, how our behavior will unfold. As always, the kids are at the mercy of adult behavior, for good or for ill.

So, when I hear the governor on the radio yesterday urge Vermonters to light up these long early winter nights, I abandon my usual bah-humbug attitude of not running up the electric bill or burning more fuel.

There’s plenty of winter ahead. The plan might be as simple as day-by-day take a walk in the dark, through the mist and beneath a gauzy moon. Walking across our front yard last night, I remembered where I had planted crocuses and daffodils, that the blue squill will return next spring, that night always passes, too.

“I know how hard this pandemic has been, especially as we make our way through the holidays without the ‘normal’ get-togethers and sense of closeness we all want,” said Governor Scott. “So, in celebration of the coming holiday season, I think it’s time to lift our spirits. Let’s get creative and show the world that Vermonters are here for each other and that even through these dark and difficult times, Vermont Lights the Way…. I hope this effort will spread joy and hope, especially for our kids… there are brighter days ahead.”

White Rags or Gulls?

Across the road, I chat with my neighbor in mid-afternoon about the general weirdness of this time.

She says it’s like the country has no president now, and in a weird way that seems true, as though in Vermont we’re in our own sovereign world, under our earnest governor and his team. Of course, we’re not, as she knows and we all know. Among the endless lessons the pandemic has taught us is how our planet is connected. The governor pleads, Stay home for the holidays. Think of not just your wants, but the needs of others around you.

Pre-holiday, we’re again waiting: what way will our collective behavior push us? Will the virus surge again, or will the bulk of us concede and stay home?

My neighbor and I linger, talking. Her little boy pretends to be his younger brother, giggling under our conversation. He shouts with happiness when I call him by his brother’s name, ecstatic that I’ve fallen for his role change.

The pandemic has opened our eyes, too, to see what was always there. The Hardwick dam recently lowered the Black River to a trickle. On Saturday afternoon, we walked through the muddy bed.

Gulls flew overhead, pure white in a November landscape of gray and black, steadily flying into the wind.

“Throughout history, women have too often been seen as subjects of art, rather than artists… As a woman painter, one needs to work out a strategy.”

— Celia Paul, Self-Portrait