Small Kindness.

I buy a battery at the auto parts on my way home from work. The young man there asks if I want him to install the battery. Heck, yes, I do.

The afternoon is sunny and breezy, not too cold, not overly hot at all, just about perfect weather. An acquaintance follows me outside, asking about work. A few years back when I asked for a used trampoline on our neighborhood virtual bulletin board, he sent me links for a few, and I found one. His grandsons were some of my favorite readers in the library where I worked. The boys have grown and moved on, too.

The three of us talk about land and taxes, whether rain will fall tomorrow, and how everyone seems short of help these days. Eventually, as often happens these days, the conversation winds around to the price of land in Vermont and what that means for our future.

The young man pulls out my old, nearly given-up-the-ghost battery. He tightens in the new battery and has me start the car. I’m in the kind of rush I’m in too often these days — running from here to there — the kind of hustle I do between work and parenting. The engine starts easily. I thank him profusely for this small gesture of kindness. He gives me a thumbs up. I wish him good luck with his project, and that’s it. We’re each off to our ways.

“Writing is work. Anyone can do this, anyone can learn to do this. It’s not rocket science; it’s habits of mind and habits of work.” 

— Alexander Chee

Somewhere in the Pandemic.

A colleague and I discuss our somewhere-in-the-pandemic plans: gardening and creativity and as much outdoor time as possible. We’re somewhere in the pandemic; that’s our determination. This somewhere might extend for a very long time yet.

This week, I was invited to a FB event where people all over the country signed in. I began by talking a little about my own dear state — tiny Vermont — whose entire population of 650,00 souls is less than many cities in this country. Some villages have a post office and a single paved road, a scattering of houses, streams and trees, gardens and swing sets. Since I was talking about my book and addiction, I spoke about how the wide world seeps into the most hidden places in my world, too. And yet, our lives go on. That same, age-old question — how to find meaning in our lives?

Memorial Day in Vermont is a big deal. The town cemetery beside my house is freshly mowed. New flags wave near stones. All week long, families have been tending gravestones. May is the season of lilacs and green. I make notes for the weekend: tend my garden. Make friends with the new neighbor and the scary dog.

Stranger Aid.

Retreat Meadows, Brattleboro, Vermont

A stranger in the post office asks me if I can free her mail from her box. It’s a narrow box, nearly at the bottom of the wall. I crouch down, extracting envelope by envelope, taking care not to tear the paper. It’s clear she hasn’t collected her mail in some time. She waits patiently while I tug with some effort. While I hand up envelopes and fliers and magazines, I talk and talk, rambling on about the mail and whatever inane thing drifts into my mind. Around us, people open their boxes, collect their stuff, and disappear. I keep at my project, now kneeling. Finished, I shut her box door.

She thanks me, and we go our separate ways. Walking home, I keep thinking about that simple thing, how easy it is to give to a stranger. There’s likely an obvious lesson here. But one thing is clear, I got as much from the mail extraction as this woman.

… A cold and soggy April. Miniature daffodils push up through black soil. I keep feeding my wood stove.

Breaking Ice.

On a midday walk around the lake, I hear bits of breaking-up ice crash against a cement pier. Vermont spring — ice and green shoots, rain and rouge snow and sometimes sun.

This time of year — school break and tail-end-of-winter doldrums — many folks have flown to warmer and sunnier climates, seeking the old stand-by of the geographical cure. Around the lakes where summer folks own the large houses, hardly anyone is there, save for carpenters and roofers and painters, their pickup trucks clustered in driveways.

But the lake keeps on with its own steady world, the fierce ice gradually giving up its ghost. By the time these summer folks return, the water will have warmed again. For now, though, ice clinks as it breaks apart.

I tie my long hair back with a rubber band I found in my coat pocket. The breeze carries the damp scent of the earth, the dream of unfurling leaves, the memory of children crouched among the cedar tree roots, playing.

“The sun was warm but the wind was chill. You know how it is with an April day.”

~ Robert Frost

Not Rabbits, Hares.

Robin songs come through my open window this morning. Although I’m still keeping the wood stove at least tepidly warm, we leave the bedroom windows open all night. In this corner of Vermont, we’ve had Easters of snow, others of hot sun.

After dinner last night, we started talking about what this holiday is about anyway. My teenager pulled her sweatshirt hood over her head and scooted down on the couch. Unintentionally, she looked like a little kid again, listening to the chat around her and diving in at times.

I remembered the Easter she was four or so, and her friend from down the road came to play. The girls ran around under the giant spruce tree in our scrappy yard. When I stepped out of the kitchen to sit on the porch and talk to the girls, the little children were running around with two large snowshoe hares that were molting to brown. The girls asked me what was wrong with their fur; it was so patchy and strange. They were worried the hares were injured.

Our house was surrounded by thousands of acres of wilderness, but we had never seen hares, only their tracks all through the woods. The hares stayed for a visit that morning, running between the girls. Delighted, the girls kept calling, “rabbits! rabbits!” I moved on, distracted by whatever chore I was sure I needed to do. When I returned, the hares had disappeared. We never saw them again.

This morning, my alarm buzzed before dawn, and I lay there, wondering if I really needed to keep on with what I’m doing. Indeed, apparently, I do, although I often feel like a molting hare. The robins sang sweetly, actually for dear life. I got up to feed the cats and make coffee.

It’s been a very long two years. Savor whatever birdsongs or sweetness or coffee comes your way.

Dirty Mud Puddle.

The old yellow house where my daughter attended preschool and, one afternoon, gave me a purple pansy she had potted herself. In the scheme of our lives, such a tiny sweet thing.

In the face of such hard news overseas, this splash of sky reflected in a dirty mud puddle is all I can offer. Be well, friends. Savor sweetness, where you stumble upon it.